Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Nothing Left

The other night I heard Anderson Cooper, the latest well-coiffed fool de jour, saying something about Obama needing to change the perception that he’s “left of the American center.” He was following up on something Bill Bennett had said earlier. Yes, Bill Bennett. That bastard is now on CNN’s “best political team on television,” which should make you gag if you haven’t lost that reflex from overuse.

Left, right. Right, left. Those terms we all use, derived from the seating arrangements at the National Assembly in Paris over two centuries ago—terms that long ago lost their usefulness to any meaningful discourse. And what is most absurd is that bobble-heads in the media still talk about “the left”—as if it were a viable political force in the United States.

News flash: there hasn’t been a real left wing in this country for at least thirty years. Not if you mean a movement or a political group that has political clout within the American system. During Vietnam, there started to be one, but it was mostly confined to students and other draft-age youth. The rest of the country stayed stupid and apathetic. The powers-that-be made sure that the “new” left of the Sixties was undermined, suppressed, busted, and co-opted into irrelevance. But the vehemence of the antiwar movement, and the brief rise of a so-called “counterculture,” scared America’s owners so much that they’re still hysterically railing against them.

The wingnut nation propped up “liberalism” as its straw man, and pretended that this was the “left.” They actually wanted us to believe that Jimmy Carter, Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton, and the rest of the feckless Democratic wannabes, who were in fact corporate shills to the bone, were dangerous leftists. They’ve persuaded even themselves that they are an embattled minority holding out against a powerful left-liberal threat.

Every news talk show has right-wing pundits on its regular staff. George Will, Pat Buchanan, Glenn Freakshow Beck, the list goes on and on. Now, name one left-wing pundit with a regular TV gig. There’s no such thing. No, don’t give me some prevaricator like Mark Shields—he’s a reporter who tries to be “balanced,” not an unabashed spokesman for an alternative to the “conservative” paradigm the way Will or Buchanan are vocal, unabashed rightists. There is no left-wing pundit on TV. None. So when some variety of butt-licking cable anchor talks about the “left,” he (or she) is talking about someone who is not there.

They always talk about “the center,” too. The “center” is a con-man’s trick. The marker keeps getting moved farther and farther to the right. What is considered “the center” now was crazy-ass John Birch territory forty years ago when I was a kid. Ronald Reagan was correctly viewed as a hate-mongering extremist then, not the revered grandpa figure we’ve been presented with since. The Republicans have perfected the art of pushing the boundaries beyond what anyone thought possible, so that you can never be conservative enough, unless you’re with them, and even then you'd better be careful.

There is not a single person in the entire government that I know of who is willing to go on TV and say “I’m a leftist.” If there were, the news show wouldn’t allow him on. To even use the word “left” in mainstream discourse is to imply something perverse and wrong and scary, something that will undermine your patriotism, sell drugs to your kids, outlaw your religion. Every coward in the Democratic Party wants to be known as a “centrist.” If they’re not outright Lieberman turncoats who dream of obliterating nations like Hillary Clinton just did in public, then they’re timid Democrats who want to be decent, but get fwightened whenever Dick Cheney waves his Bin Laden shadow puppet at them.

If the wingnuts were to wake up one day and find that there was an actual “left” in this country, they would piss themselves in fear. In Europe they still have a labor movement, for chrissake. They have labor parties, and viable socialist parties that win fucking elections! The left is embattled in Europe, too, for sure, and was badly tainted by association with the criminal Soviet and Chinese regimes. But there is an actual left-wing there! In America, we have a right-wing monopoly on the political process with a phony straw man “left” used to prevent us from speaking up. What there is of a progressive movement is totally outside the system, and it’s still a small minority.

If you’re a student interested in getting ahead in the political game here in the U.S., what do you do? If you’re a right-winger, even a pinhead like Dinesh D’Souza, you will have opportunities galore to advance yourself. People will throw money at you. You can write for rags like The American Spectator and The National Review. You can write books and get invited on talk shows. It doesn’t matter that you can’t write, that your mind is a stagnant pool of banality. Just string the usual half-assed opinions together and you will be rewarded. Take Jonah Goldberg, for instance. Please.

You see, there’s a lot of money behind the rightist movement. A whole lot of money, and more where that came from. And if one wingnut is discredited, they'll just buy another one. There's always another one, because there's money in it. That's all conservatism is. There are no actual principles involved other than that.

Now, let’s say you’re a left-winger. What do you do? You can maybe start a blog for no pay. You can go work for a Democratic politician, get betrayed and corrupted, write position papers and get swallowed by the system. You can compete for the few low-paying gigs at The Nation or Mother Jones or whatever. Probably you’ll just go back to academia and become a professor. That’s the one place your leftism might be tolerated. As long as you don’t attract too much attention.

So don’t talk to me about the left. There is no left. It was killed when the labor unions bought into the war machine and became fat and complacent. It died when working people indulged racism and hatred and voted for smooth-talking liars who turned around and screwed them for everything they had. It was murdered when so-called liberals sent thousands of kids down the pipeline to Vietnam. Now we just sit and wait for scraps, hoping that some candidate will bring us “change.” But I don’t believe in left and right any more. I believe that there are greedy corporate pigs who own the country and are running the government. And then there are the rest of us, mostly trying to just get by.

Hint: the rest of us outnumber them.


Anonymous said...

Well, there's Rachel Maddow.

Comrade Misfit said...

Michael, Maddow is the exception that proves the rule.

Dashiell, I am so blogrolling you. Great post.

equa yona(Big Bear) said...

Excellent observation and really well stated, I especially liked the 'greedy corporate pigs' thing. Truth is, 'left' has always been a dirty word in this country which was founded by aristocratic slave owners devoted to maintaining the power of the white landed gentry. The greedy corporate pigs always have, from the very beginning, run this country. Oh, they knew how to spin stuff more eloquently in the day, but they ran it and they always will, I fear. Because they own the military too. As Emma Goldman said, "If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal."