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Apocalypse Again: The Boom-and-Bust Cycle of Bipartisan Politics

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Posted on Nov 2, 2010
AP / Scott Sady

The fourth Tea Party Express of the apocalypse: Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaks to the crowd during the kickoff of the nationwide Tea Party Express bus tour in Reno, Nev., on Oct. 18.

By Scott Tucker

(Page 2)


So what would an apocalyptic far-right government do if the Republicans gain the balance of power in the nearing midterm elections? Let’s assume the worst, since this is always the terrible possibility conjured up by their Democratic opponents.

Here is the truly apocalyptic Republican program in one paragraph (and we will revisit these issues when we examine how Democrats deal with them): Any moves to tax the rich fairly would be scrapped as the social engineering of socialists. The recent health care reform, though deeply compromised, would be dismantled. The unemployed would remain abandoned, and courts would drop the hammer on immigrant workers. Aid to the poor and homeless would be slashed. Women would be disabused of the notion that they have the freedom to choose abortion. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people would become political pariahs. Corporate overlords, imperial militarists and Christian fundamentalists would take power.

Why is this apocalypse so familiar? Because rage and fear from below were once married to calculated class politics from above. That was the reactionary coalition that swept to power in 1980, and we now call it the Reagan Revolution. Thirty years have passed, and what do we witness now? The same kind of class resentment from below, but all the more raw and volatile now because so many workers have no living memory of working-class power. Labor union local meetings are indispensable schools of class consciousness, but whole sectors of industry have been shipped offshore to cheaper labor markets.


Square, Site wide

The historical lesson here is that workers cannot rely on the hope of being shareholders in corporations when their share of capital was never great, much less their power in corporate offices. If workers are to become real stakeholders in the national economy, they will also need to create workplaces in open class conflict with the corporate state. This is still possible through direct action in some sectors of manufacture and of service industries. But even in cities and regions strip-mined and abandoned by capitalists in full flight across national borders, workers may still form new cells of mutual aid. Where two or three are gathered together, a new world comes into being.

Organized labor is not yet taking a truly independent path through this political wilderness. All too often the labor union leaders are simply arms of management, and tools of the corporate state. But all is not dark, all is not lost. The California Nurses Association proved to be a voice of reason against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and it went on to join the Massachusetts Nurses Association in founding National Nurses United. Here is real hope for the sick and medical workers alike. Anyone who has spent time in a hospital bed knows that patients often trust nurses more than doctors, because nurses visit more often and can be the real lifelines during a crisis.

Another example of union strength was the recent shutdown of the ports in the Bay Area by longshore workers in solidarity with the late Oscar Grant, an unarmed African-American young man shot in the back by a police officer on New Year’s Day of 2009. Their common cause gives real meaning to that old, worn phrase the dignity of labor. For the cause here was not simply better wages and work conditions but a defense of all citizens against the armed power of the state. Any constitution is an empty contract unless we, the people, step up to public responsibilities. The longshore workers of ILWU Local 10 did so Oct. 23 and joined members of Grant’s family in public protest. “An injury to one is an injury to all”—that is the motto of ILWU Local 10, and it should be the Golden Rule for any decent republic. Anyone who claims working people have no heart left for public life and struggle has just not been paying attention.

The ruling class remains fiercely class-conscious, and it commands the heights of political power. Whenever the Republicans claim that the Democrats are preaching class war, this is a classic case of political projection. Class divisions have deepened over the past 30 years, but only the most zealous Democrat would pretend that all blame lies with the Republicans. That is a “progressive” fiction that has regressive consequences in every major election, since it carries the hypnotic suggestion that voters can choose only between two corporate parties.

No one seriously claims that political parties alone determine economic surges and crashes. The causal order is rather the reverse: Objective economic forces bear down upon political systems, and then all kinds of ideological fractures come to the surface, and all kinds of ad hoc coalitions are formed across party lines. That means every election guarantees the relative stability of corporate rule, so long as the two big corporate parties maintain their lockdown on the electoral system. The very rich still remain much better represented in Congress than the working and middle classes.

What do we find on the ideological fever charts of this nation all through the previous century, and now into the first decade of the 21st as well? A perennial holy war not only against avowed red-blooded socialists, whether domestic or foreign, but also an attempt to paint the most panic-stricken liberals in shades of deepest pink. Republicans once crusaded against actually existing communism, whereas now they crusade against the utterly nonexistent “socialism” of the Democratic Party.

And how does the Democratic Party fight the charge of socialism?

The Democrats refuse to fight fair and square for a graduated income tax, proportionate to real wages and our actually existing class system. They maintain the pretense of defending “the middle class,” an ideological middle ground in which labor unions are strictly for losers and philanthropy is the hobby of the rich.

The Democrats bungled health care reform very badly under the Clinton administration, and still worse under the Obama administration. None of the necessary lessons were learned the second time around, and indeed the insurance companies are already busy gaming the new system. This was predicted by the good doctors who founded Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP). Home foreclosures are still a high-profile story; but the health care bills that are not covered by private insurance plans are what really force so many people into bankruptcy.

The Democrats have not given comprehensive aid to the unemployed, which would indeed require social democratic public programs. A public works program would do much good in repairing roads, tunnels and bridges, but the Democrats have their own interests in privatizing public services and public infrastructure.

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By Nelly, April 27, 2011 at 5:14 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It’s spooky how clever some ppl are. Thakns!

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By basho, November 4, 2010 at 1:03 pm Link to this comment

great article scott.

should be required reading for anyone with an attention span of more than 2 minutes.

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By Lafayette, November 4, 2010 at 8:18 am Link to this comment


DJC: American elections don’t serve any good purpose because near every person participating in them votes defensively within the corporate party.

Those who feel this way should come live in a multi-party system with its merry-go-round elections.

It’s got so bad that some countries institute a double-barrel electoral process. The first to separate the wheat from the chaff and the second to select one of the remaining two.

Which is, some say, tantamount to our Primary System in the US. But, I tend to disagree. In a large plurality, there are more voices to be heard in the debate. But that is just the problem—too many voices lead to cacophony and thus confusion.

Perhaps the Brits are ahead of us, but, then they always had the plurality of a three-party system. The Liberal-Democrats always came in third and sometimes second, but never first. And yet, they played king-maker in the last British election.

We could as well, perhaps, establish a Social Democrat party, truly Left-of-Center, but not extreme. One that championed, for instance, a Public Health Option (as all the countries of the EU enjoy today) and nearly-free education up to and beyond post-secondary schooling. And, lest we forget, Income Fairness.

Unlike Britain, however, this would leave the traditional Democrat Party in the Center - since a Social Democrat Party would be even further to the Left.

And the beauty of this political setup is the following: Were Social Dems voted into Congress by their constituencies, then, in order to govern in Congress, the Center would have to deal with the Center-Left. And that could make all the difference. Why?

Here’s why: The Americans, in this last mid-term election, did no vote “For the Republicans” as much as they voted “Against the Democrats”. What would have been the outcome had the body-politic a third choice, the Social Democrats? Would that have brought those who stayed on the sidelines into the voting booths? Methinks, yes.

If the outcome followed the same pattern as in Europe, in stead of fleeing to the Right in disgust—many Dems would have voted further to the Left.

And the Democratic Center and Left would be in power in Congress today—With BO as PotUS.

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By David J. Cyr, November 3, 2010 at 11:31 am Link to this comment

QUOTE: mdgr wrote, “I certainly won’t be voting for [Greens] this election, partly because they don’t have it together enough to have anyone to vote for.”
The 2010 Green candidate for Governor of New York, Howie Hawkins, definitely has “it” together.

If voters had their shit together (instead of piled between their ears), Andrew Cuomo, the real retrograde (D) that the corporate party pre-installed would be in court today seeking to overturn the popular vote landslide that had truly “historically” seated Hawkins.

American elections don’t serve any good purpose because near every person participating in them votes defensively within the corporate party. The (R)s get defensive votes from the corporate party faction that fears being contaminated by depraved liberals, and the (D)s get defensive votes from the corporate party faction that fears everything that might not always be nice and very pleasant to them — and them alone — in their special backyards. The (R) and (D) voters routinely choose the dictatorship they each hope will be more benevolent to their (entitled to special privilege) corporate state supporting faction… while it’s being all the medieval malevolent it can be to everyone and everything upon the planet (including those who vote for it).

The result is regular 99% corporate (R) & (D) party popular vote mandates for a diseased global corporate culture continuum that exploits everything natural, with the same concern that cancer has for its host… a continuum that, if continued, will surely eventually result in the extermination of all of the corporate culture’s hosts. Cancer kills until it kills itself.

For elections to be useful, for some possible good, a large majority of voters need to purposefully defend natural persons and Nature (whom we all existentially depend upon), by always very aggressively voting as offensively as possible against the corporate (R) & (D) party.

There’s not much time left for natural persons to keep wasting elections.

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By Jimnp72, November 3, 2010 at 10:29 am Link to this comment

you all can bloviate all you want about the dorky spineless dems.

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By Bia, November 3, 2010 at 10:11 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This article and this ELECTION are perfect examples of why we NEED IRV (Instant Runoff Voting)  or some other system of ranked voting to re-establish our Democracy!

If everyone could have a back-up vote for their second-choice candidate, they would be free to vote their conscience as their FIRST choice without having to constantly leverage against the Spoiler Effect.
Counting would be only a little more complicated than the existing system ( First Choice gets TWO points, Second Choice gets ONE…add em up!) but well worth it for the health and RESPONSIVENESS and health of our Representative Democracy!

As it is, this Binary system of “GoodCop/BadCop only serves the power elite, especially now after the horrid SCROTUS “Citizens United” ruling allowing Corporations to rape the system with their obscenely huge and secret tonguebaths of cash!
This election has been a perfect example everything that’s WRONG with our system.

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By tedmurphy41, November 3, 2010 at 9:58 am Link to this comment

The Governments we elect are the real problem and, as it stands and without any real, radical change to this electoral system, we are just as well to pick the winning candidates, who would form a Government, out of a (un?)lucky bag.

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By Lafayette, November 3, 2010 at 5:25 am Link to this comment


Heaven or hell, it’s a free country and it’s your choice.

Pray tell, do explain:
* What is the purpose of “freedom” when one is incarcerated in poverty?
* What is the benefit of “choice”, when the two sole options are pathetically incompetent?

It’s time for a third-way, called Centrist. Which, summed up, means leaving the Capitalist Cash-Cow as it is, but learning how to milk it such that its produce leads to a better distribution for everyone. Communist propaganda, you think?

Not really. The above premise wont happen until Americans learn the facts about their economic predicament, which boils down to this: If you are a member of the middle and lower class of America (meaning that you earn less than $350K per year), then you a part of the 80% of Americans that are sharing 7% of the country’s financial wealth. Yep, all the rest – all 93% of it – goes to the upper-class 20% of the population. (Don’t believe that sad fact of exceptionally warped distribution of America’s Financial Wealth? Then go here.)

Now, knowing that, do explain why anyone should work themselves to exhaustion for the benefit of just 20% of the population that live off their rents? Answer: Because one does not have much choice in a highly competitive America, where the Law of the Jungle prevails far too often.

More foolish, yet, America is one of the very few countries that has such a meager number of vacation days – and yet 17% of the working population give at least 10% of their vacation time back to their employers?

That’s dumber than dumb. So, please, enough of the “Liberty Bell” BS. All that mellifluous pap for the masses is just folklore, long since past.

Our founding fathers would not recognize today the United States they worked so hard to create.

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By C.Curtis.Dillon, November 3, 2010 at 3:47 am Link to this comment

This was a nice declaration of principles and may even be a declaration of war on the elites.  I’m certain in for the long haul on this struggle.  We need to start at the local level and build a new way of doing business in this country.

I’ve been pondering the current rightward drift all over the world of late and have concluded that it is really a drift toward the Chinese way of doing government.  I know for a fact that several governments here in Eastern Europe are seeking to emulate the Chinese model, with a single political entity closely tied to the wealthy elite of the country.  Russia is almost completely there while Ukraine is making a strong move in that direction with the elections on Sunday.  I also can see European politicians salivating at the idea of eliminating all this dirty, uncomfortable political wrangling and replacing it with something cleaner and easier (for them).  One need not look too far to see the same ideas being pushed in America and elsewhere.  And why not ... China is blowing the world apart with their state capitalist model.  It’s like the wild west with the sheriff on the crook’s side.

The revolution we need to make is not one of violence although conscious civil disobedience is certainly needed.  The rule of law no longer applies when the laws have been distorted and stacked against us.  So we need to form small groups, like the nurses did, and then grow the organizations through affiliation and common goals.  We need to make governing impossible for the elites, to throw their stupid laws and bones back in their faces.  We can refuse to participate and can, eventually, win.  Think about your town when most of the people refuse to go along with decisions made by your local mayor or city council.  How do you think they will prevail?  They can’t.  If we say no, they have no choice but to go along with us.  That is our revolution ... not deciding between worthless Republicans or worthless Democrats.

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By lichen, November 3, 2010 at 1:08 am Link to this comment

The republicans/most democrats can be lumped together as corporatist serial killer right wing scum.  We need real democracy, which will mean the end of corporate funding, career politicians, the murdochs and coch’s and clintons, and the time when we can really rule instead of the plutocracy.

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By bodhidharma, November 3, 2010 at 12:23 am Link to this comment

Morpheus, some of the stuff on the Revolution site is true. We could do a lot better if we used our technology to reduce work hours and supplied people fairly with the things they need instead of creating economic crises with it by reducing our workforce and lining the pockets of big business. What he’s talking about would be true democratic socialism.  The problem is how you institute such a thing in a country so highly controlled as ours. I’ve been preaching this stuff for decades, but changing people’s minds is harder than finding a tea-bagger with a PH.D.

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By Morpheus, November 2, 2010 at 11:40 pm Link to this comment

Wake the Hell up America! - Join the Revolution!

Read “Common Sense 3.1” at ( )
We don’t have to live like this anymore.

Things are only going to get worse because of you. You refuse to take any action while you wait for Democrats and Republicans to save the day. I have news for you. This is not another financial downturn or downcycle. Democrats, Republicans and economist don’t know squat.

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By bodhidharma, November 2, 2010 at 10:50 pm Link to this comment

I can relate to the deep feelings of disillusionment with our government that the author certainly felt.It seems that we are constantly going from bad to worse,and taking our government back from the wealthy elite seems to be near impossible as they control the media and suppress our rights to protest as they turn us into another third world country. We watch helplessly as our jobs are shipped overseas, our trade deficits increase and our middle class disappears. Labor unions are becoming a thing of the past as the jobs they protected vanish. In the last few decades we have watched as our government became a hollow shell, most of the functions it used to perform for the public good being privatized to corporations interested only in making as much profit as possible.  We are now 47th in life expectancy in this country, and still they try to tell us we are ‘the greatest nation on earth’! I keep trying to figure out how so many of our people can be so gullible. Have we just become intellectually lazy?  Has life just become too complicated, have we lost faith in ourselves? I am amazed constantly when I talk to people just how uninformed they seem to be, and just how much misinformation they seem to have absorbed. Maybe when things get bad enough, we will see a change.  Maybe then a third party with the average person’s welfare in mind will become viable.  I am starting to wonder just how bad things will have to get first, though!

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By the worm, November 2, 2010 at 8:43 pm Link to this comment

The recent visual vividly illustrating the Obama administration’s failure, shows
Obama in a ‘backyard session’, ‘listening’ to the American people.

If President Obama had been listening for the last two years, he’d have heard
American people wanted change in three areas:

1 The American people wanted a government administered plan like Medicare -
for everyone. (72% - CBS/New York Times poll June 2009)

1A. Democrats gave private sector insurers a windfall: mandated customers, with
a taxpayer-paid overhead rate of 20% for ‘mandated customers’ (20% of our
premium spent on administration, CEO salaries, bonuses, Boards to set rates and
decide who’s covered and ‘profits’).

2 64% of the American people opposed expanding the war in Afghanistan and
wanted to disentangle from Bush-era ‘War on Terror’ and ‘preventive war’

2B. Democrats gave us an expansion of the war in Afghanistan.

3 The vast majority of Americans opposed the transfer of taxpayer wealth to
cover private company debt – the bailout.

3B. Democrats kept the 6 too-big-to-fail banks – now bigger than ever; kept
deposits at risk by maintaining huge grey areas between commercial and
investment banking; didn’t ‘punish’ the financial industry - now even more
profitable, with bonuses among the biggest ever.

None are so blind as those who will not see, nor deaf as those who will not hear.

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By lasmog, November 2, 2010 at 7:14 pm Link to this comment

What a choice; two corporatist parties to choose from.  There doesn’t seem to be anyway to punish the sleazy Democrats without rewarding the sleazier Republicans. We deserve much better than Clinton or Obama but do deserve President Palin?

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By mdgr, November 2, 2010 at 6:01 pm Link to this comment

This article reflects all that is good and not so good about the Green Party.

First of all, let it be said that Scott Tucker can write. On the other hand, he is even wordier than Scott Ritter, and unlike the former, after just a little while he begins to lose the forest through the trees.

We’re talking about a serious need for an editor, and this is true for the Green Party in general. I mean, in the state of Washington, the Green’s didn’t even have a Senate candidate, and their site looked like it had been constructed by culturally deprived four year old.

They are strong on idealism, yes, but in matters of execution, they typically get lost in their own patter and become excessively cerebral. While they may be able to play three-dimensional chess in their heads, they typically are unable to put forward succinctly compelling points without inadvertently “screwing the pooch” in the presentation.

And they continue to nominate totally unelectable candidates, while patting themselves on the back and feeling very martyr-like. Still, I generally agree with the thrust of Mr. Ticker’s argument even if the Green’s are unable to maintain much of a state presence, much less a national presence. I certainly won’t be voting for them this election, partly because they don’t have it together enough to have anyone to vote for.

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By grumps, November 2, 2010 at 5:09 pm Link to this comment

Excellent article and personally I came to the same conclusion for this election. I refused to be fear mongered into voting for the “lesser evil” again.
I like Nader’s suggestion also: vote your conscience.

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By Matzpen, November 2, 2010 at 4:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

That’s the terrible thing about American politics. The two parties already have too much in common but then they add bipartisanship into the mix. Why bother even voting at this point

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By Smoove, November 2, 2010 at 4:40 pm Link to this comment

“Understanding Libertarian Morality: The Psychological Roots of an Individualist Ideology”

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By ralph, November 2, 2010 at 4:24 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mills wrote in detail about the power elite and the masses. Written in 1956 but as fresh and pertinent as then. ” The Power Elite” says it all. Truly remarkable.

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