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Want Hope and Change? Build a Real Left

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Posted on Sep 6, 2012
AP/Chuck Burton

A demonstrator known only as “The Captain” is detained by police during an unscheduled protest march in Charlotte, N.C.

By Alan Minsky

(Page 2)

In sum, I came away from these encounters with the rank-and-file attendees with the sense that these are fine people with whom to start building a serious social justice movement in the United States, but …

The Lowest Circle of Hell

Know that as soon as any soul betrays, as I have done, his body by a demon is taken from him, who thereafter rules it.”—Dante, “The Inferno”

In Dante’s “Inferno,” the deepest darkest pit of hell is reserved for those who betray others. Thus, Judas, Brutus and Cassius are condemned for eternity to be continually eaten alive by the three-headed Beast.

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So, let’s play Dante. Who among our contemporaries wins the hot seat besides Lucifer? Whose deceptions do the greatest damage? I’m guessing you have a sense where I’m going with this.

The GOP is pretty upfront with its intentions, especially when it comes to economic policies. OK, maybe Republicans don’t really believe the part about how the wealth generated will reach the masses, but they’re pretty clear about not taxing the wealthy while deregulating and privatizing everything in sight. In Dante’s hell, these are more or less middleweight sins. Greed lands you only in the fourth circle, charlatans in the fresh air of the eighth. Dick Cheney reversed decades of denial and embraced torture publicly. Honest chap lands in the seventh circle.

Now, imagine the American middle class is the Jesus or Caesar of our time. Et tu, Summers? Who have you deceived with a kiss, Robert Rubin, chairman of Citigroup in between stints with the Clinton and Obama administrations? Bill? Barack?

In 1999 Bill Clinton, under the guidance of Summers and Rubin, signed legislation eliminating the Glass-Steagall Act, perhaps the most important piece of financial industry regulation in American history. This move is widely seen as paving the way for the financial collapse of 2007-08 that sparked the current Great Recession.

Wednesday night at the Democratic convention, Clinton said the Republicans want “to get rid of those pesky financial regulations designed to prevent another crash and prohibit future bailouts.”

Furthermore, while the Democrats decry Paul Ryan and his embrace of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, they have forgotten to mention that during the Clinton years, Rubin was “joined at the hip” (according to former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt Jr.) with die-hard Randite and Republican darling Alan Greenspan, working together to block oversight of toxic financial derivatives.

Would the rank-and-file Democrats—defenders of the middle class, lovers of Bill and Barack, kept in the dark about the minutiae of economic policy—ever have supported these policies that boosted the 1 percent at the expense of the 99 percent? If not, that’s some serious betrayal.

Money Doesn’t Talk, It Swears

Midway through Tuesday, I was still marveling at how much of an inversion the Democratic convention crowd was from the Republican one. In Tampa, the Republicans’ populist base was invisible, and Romney’s base, the country club set, dominated the inside and outside of the convention. Throughout Monday and the morning Tuesday, all I’d seen across Charlotte was the middle- and working-class base of the Democratic Party. 

Then, as I was walking only a few blocks from the convention hall’s entrance, the heavens opened and the rain poured down for the umpteenth time. I ducked under an overhang outside one of the steel and glass corporate towers of antiseptic downtown Charlotte. 

When I turned around, I noticed a crowd gathering inside Bar Cocoa that didn’t look like anything I’d seen yet. There they were, plain as day: the American moneyed elite in its natural habitat, an exclusive, climate-controlled gourmet eatery. 

Once I was through the revolving doors, I saw that Bar Cocoa was attached to the huge lobby of the Ritz-Carlton hotel, which was packed with men and women in their best-tailored Wall Street suits. I’d found the Democratic Party’s high rollers, a world away from the union marchers of Monday’s Labor Day rally. 

I slipped through the crowd, and no one seemed to particularly mind my presence. Whereas among the rank and file, any person was just as likely to strike up a conversation as a snoopy journalist like myself, in this packed, sprawling Ritz-Carlton lobby restaurant, the millionaires were less forthcoming.  Near the main entrance, there was a sign for a DNC Finance Committee event on which contributors were referred to as “financiers.” 

Later, I would run into four young students, unpaid interns wearing Finance Committee badges. I asked them about it. They were very forthcoming. Their job was to shuttle the big donors wherever they wanted to go. They frequently had to remind the donors that if they were only at the mega-donor level, they were not allowed entrance into the super-mega-donor suite. “And no, you don’t get to sit with Obama tonight,” they would say.


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