Whether the Democrats retain control of Congress after the Nov. 8 midterm elections makes little difference in the lives of working-class Americans. The Republican and Democratic Parties are both capitalist parties. Both parties are beholden to Wall Street, the fossil fuel industry, the military-industrial-complex, and capital.
Don’t take my word for it. Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, conceded as much during a 2017 interview on CNN. When pressed by a young man during a town-hall-style Q&A about the prospects of the Democrats moving leftward on economic issues, Pelosi flatly stated, “I thank you for your question. But I must say, we’re capitalist. That’s just the way it is.”
“Needless is it for me to say to the thinking workman that he has no choice between these two capitalist parties,” Eugene Debs wrote in 1900, “that they are both pledged to the same system and that whether the one or the other succeeds, he will still remain the wage-working slave he is today.”
Big businesses and corporations give equally to both the Republican and Democratic parties so as to effectively rig the game in their favor. No matter which party or candidate emerges victorious on election day, the true winner remains Wall Street.
This “choice” is, indeed, no choice at all. This is not democracy. It is plutocracy. It is a dictatorship of the wealthy. But please, tell me more about how socialism is inevitably “authoritarian,” and how it destroys personal freedom.
Frederick Engels, in analyzing the U.S. political system, once described the Republican and Democratic parties as “two great gangs of political speculators, who alternately take possession of the state power and exploit it by the most corrupt means and for the most corrupt ends — and the nation is powerless against these two great cartels of politicians, who are ostensibly its servants, but in reality exploit and plunder it.”
Candidate Joe Biden to Wall Street: “Nothing Will Fundamentally Change.”
President Joe Biden and the Democrats have failed to deliver any meaningful gains for working-class Americans, in part, because Biden never promised them any, in the first place. Biden’s entire 2020 campaign amounted to “I’m Not Donald Trump.” He pledged a return to “civility,” and the Established Norms of bourgeois liberalism. And he vowed to handle the COVID-19 pandemic more efficiently than Trump — who recklessly downplayed the novel virus which has killed over one million people. (Remember COVID…? Contrary to popular belief, the pandemic is still going on.)
Liberals were forthright in their support for Biden. They wanted to go “back to brunch.” They did not want to read or hear about Trump’s angry tweets, anymore. They wanted to restore “dignity” to the White House. And they wanted to be able to “ignore politics,” again. Many liberal colleagues blankly told me as much.
Not only have the Democrats done nothing to reign in inflation, but they barely address the issue on the campaign trail. Nor do they point to the real source of inflation: Corporate price gouging. Instead, the have allowed the right to completely co-opt the issue, allowing the Republicans to pose as the party of the “working-class.”
There is Always $$$ for War
The Democrats seem far more invested in funneling billions of dollars into the ongoing U.S. proxy war with Russia. This is a war that, for the first time since the Cold War, raises the very real possibility of a nuclear Armageddon. For the last six years, the Democratic elites have argued that we simply “cannot afford” programs like Medicare for All or the Green New Deal. Bernie Sanders’s social democratic platform was deemed “too expensive.” But when it comes to war and empire, money is, apparently, never an obstacle.
But then, should we really be surprised…? Biden was a chief architect of the criminal war in Iraq. He advocated for Saddam Hussein’s removal from power five years before the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He is a fierce supporter of Israel, calling the apartheid state the “single greatest strength America has in the Middle East.”
With no real economic platform to run on, the Democrats have resorted to the only thing they seem to know how to talk about: So-called “culture war” issues and identity politics. The Democratic Party has made abortion one of its chief issues this election. Perhaps they are hoping voters forget the fact that the right-wing Supreme Court already revoked women’s right to an abortion this summer. Roe v. Wade is dead.
The Democratic Party has had decades to codify abortion rights into federal law. It was primed to do so back in 2008, when Barack Obama held a Democratic “supermajority” in Congress. Yet, Obama seemed more interested in bailing out the “too big to fail” banks and Wall Street institutions that trashed the global economy, bringing about the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. During an April 29, 2009 press conference, then-President Obama stated that abortion rights are “not my highest priority” at the time.
“Democracy is on the Ballot!”
The Democrats assure us that “democracy is on the ballot” in the midterm elections. Let’s put aside for the time being the fact that the United States is not, in fact, a democracy. It is a plutocracy. Capitalism is not compatible with genuine democracy.
But if the fate of democracy truly hinges on the midterms, then one would assume that, logically, the Democrats would refuse to accept the results if the Republicans win. Are we really going to put democracy up for a vote — and meekly accept the results, no matter the outcome? It is this sort of “Get-Out-the-Vote” hysteria that has led many people my age to simply tune out elections. Every single election in my lifetime has been the called the “most important election in our lifetime.”
The Democrats are not the “Lesser Evil.” They are the More Effective Evil.
“But aren’t the increasingly authoritarian Republicans worse?” you ask. This is, no doubt, the conventional thinking among the left. I would argue that the Democrats are not so much the “lesser evil,” as the “more effective evil,” as the late Glen Ford put it.
Regardless, I stopped voting for the “lesser evil” years ago. Voting for the (supposed) “lesser evil — or voting so as to promote “harm reduction” — is a failed bourgeois strategy.
“The [Democrats’] disputes with the Republicans are largely political theater, often centered around the absurd or the trivial,” writes journalist Chris Hedges. “On the substantive issues there is no difference within the ruling class. The Democrats, like the Republicans, embrace the fantasy that, even as the country stands on the brink of insolvency, a war industry that has orchestrated debacle after debacle, from Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq, is going to restore lost American global hegemony.”
“Lesser evilism” is also deeply hypocritical. President Biden is currently continuing many of Donald Trump’s most vicious right-wing assaults on immigrants, the working-class, and the environment. Yet, the “left” says nothing. Where are the mass protests? Where is the outrage? Liberals only seem to care when it is a Republican who locks immigrant children in cages and launches imperialist wars.
The problem with the U.S.’s stunted two-party duopoly is not that one political party is more objectively “evil” than the other. It is not a moral calculation. The problem is that neither party represents the working-class — the majority of the people. Workers need their own political party. The left must once and for all abandon this fantasy that we can “take over” the Democratic Party. Bernie Sanders has tried to do so, twice now. Both times the Democratic elite sabotaged his efforts.
Finally, we must move away from this infantile conception of voting and electoral politics as the “end-all-be-all” of class struggle. Voting is, at best, an extremely small part of organizing the working class. Nonetheless, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) — the largest socialist organization in the country — remains almost exclusively oriented around electoral politics.
“What matters most,” the radical historian, Howard Zinn famously wrote, “is not who is sitting in the White House, but who is ‘sitting-in’ — and who is marching outside the White House, pushing for change.”