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A brief thought experiment

by HPR Contributor | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Last Word | March 14th, 2018

By Gary Olson
olsong@moravian.edu

Recently, I’ve tried to make the case that only presidential aspirants who are vetted by and acceptable to the oligarchic elite, deep state, plutocracy or whatever nomenclature you prefer, have any chance of reaching the Oval Office.

Further, as the chief administrative officer for the bourgeoisie, they often implement policies characteristic of a psychopath and do not feel guilty about it. Harsh as it sounds, as political analysis Michael Hago observes, in their private lives “elites may choose to be the nicest people on earth but in their institutional roles as owners, executives and managers, they are necessarily monsters, since there is an institutional need for them to become monsters.”

But as a potentially useful thought experiment, let’s consider the following hypothetical situation. Let’s imagine that all the efforts of the DNC and various investor blocs had failed to sabotage Bernie Sanders’ run for the Democratic nomination in 2016. Further, and not implausibly, he went on to vanquish Trump in the general election. On November 8, 2016, a moderate social democrat (not a democratic socialist) wins the presidency. What happens on November 9th?

In 2015, the highly regarded political scientists William Grover and Joseph Peschek offered a plausible scenario of what might occur: First, global financial markets fell sharply and a “capital strike” loomed with all the national fear and anxiety that implies. Second, Sanders was under tremendous pressure to only consider cabinet appointments who would assuage Wall Street and calm fears of the market. Further, Sanders knows that only those acceptable to the real power structure would be confirmed by the Senate and none would support his proposals.

Sanders would be, what the authors term the “prisoner-elect,” a captive of the very system he promised to change. For more insights from Grover and Peskshek, see “The Unsustainable Presidency” (NY: Palgrave, 2014).

In this scenario there would be almost inconceivable tension between the “popular, working class” voters who put Sanders in office and the “economic and military forces trying to tame any potential Bernie beast.” And remember, this winning candidate wasn’t a radical, supported the U.S. empire and Israel, and rarely talked about class, capitalism, Israel or the U.S. empire. And yet he was seen as a threat. Well, what might follow?

The authors don’t suggest it but since we’re really fantasizing here, let’s say that Sanders goes on prime time television and candidly explains what’s happening and the reasons for it. It would be the most important “teaching moment” in U.S. history. It would also require enormous courage, as it would put President-elect Sanders in extreme personal peril. At that point, the only way around this nullification of democracy would be if if millions of now politically conscious citizens took to the streets and demanded the reforms be enacted.

I mention all this only to put things in perspective. The system is totally broken. We inhabit a failed state and a degraded culture. Changing a few faces and making some cosmetic reforms haven’t done it in the past. They won’t do it now. A different world is possible but we need to jettison magical thinking about what and who we’re up against.

[Editor’s note: Gary Olson is Emeritus Professor of Political Science at Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA. Contact: olsong@moravian,edu]

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