Democracy or unfettered capitalism?

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Wikimedia Commons/White House

The constant chaos promoted by Trump is exhausting. But that’s the point. It is designed to create so much confusion and anxiety that you don’t know what to think. You will end up feeling hopeless about changing anything, and you will come to accept Trump as our strongman savior.

It seems that his blizzard of bullshit is backfiring. 

Ultimately, it is a battle between democracy and unfettered capitalism. Trump and the Republicans want to return to the 1920s when a small number of wealthy men dominated society with little government interference. Today’s Republicans are determined to destroy the legacy of the New Deal, which used the government to regulate business, create a basic social safety net and promote infrastructure such as roads and bridges.

Trump says that Joe Biden is a socialist “Trojan horse.” However, Biden is a mainstream politician with serious corporate ties. So was Franklin Roosevelt, but the Great Depression compelled him to govern in an aggressively progressive direction. Today, we also face extraordinary circumstances with the climate crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created an economic crisis.

Socialist ideas have become increasingly popular. But the word “socialist” is what political scientists call a contested term (like populist and fascist). In the midst of the 1948 presidential race, President Harry Truman was called a socialist. He responded:

“Socialism is a scare word they have hurled at every advance the people have made in the last 20 years. Socialism is what they called public power. Socialism is what they called Social Security. Socialism is what they called farm price supports. Socialism is what they called bank deposit insurance. Socialism is what they called the growth of free and independent labor organizations. Socialism is their name for almost anything that helps all the people.”

When the Green New Deal resolution was introduced in Congress in 2019 by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), it was called “socialist” by the Republicans and Fox News. Ocasio-Cortez identifies as a democratic socialist but Markey has been a mainstream politician for more than 50 years and has never identified as any kind of socialist.

Markey said that the Republicans favor socialism for the rich. He remarked: “…what do you call tax breaks for 100 years for the oil, for the gas, for the coal industries — the wealthiest industries in America shaking our money out of our pockets for tax breaks for them?

“…Give us some of that socialism for wind, and solar, and all-electric vehicles, and plug-in hybrids and storage battery technology. And we will be looking at the fossil-fuel industry in the rear-view mirror of history.”

This is a turning point in our history. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) made that clear when he spoke at the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. He charged that corporate dark money is behind a plot, with all the markings of a covert operation, to control the Supreme Court and undermine the independence of the judicial branch of the federal government.

He chose not to ask the judge any questions. Instead, he gave a 30-minute detailed talk on how right-wing groups, including the Federalist Society and Judicial Crisis Network, use dark money to shape the nation’s judiciary.

Whitehouse talked about the big public issues like getting rid of the Affordable Care Act, undoing Roe v Wade and undoing same-sex marriage. But he also cited 80 Supreme Court decisions that weren’t about such hot-button issues. They were about corporate power. The cases were decided by a 5-4 partisan majority (not one Democratic appointee joined the five).

He said the cases fell into four categories: 1) allowing unlimited and dark money in politics; 2) demeaning and diminishing the civil jury (where corporations have less influence); 3) weakening regulatory agencies; 4) undermining voting rights. 

Regarding the third category, Whitehouse said, “A lot of this money, I’m convinced, is polluter money. The Koch Industries is a polluter. The fossil fuel industry is a polluter. Who else would be putting buckets of money into this and wanting to hide who they are, behind Donors Trust or other schemes? … If you’re a big polluter, what do you want? You want weak regulatory agencies.”

Democracy is under attack. Trump has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power no matter who wins the election.

This summer, a bi-partisan group called the Transition Integrity Project held a series of “war games” with more than 100 current and former senior government officials, political professionals, and other experts to review possible scenarios for the upcoming election and presidential transition. Their report said: 

“We assess with a high degree of likelihood that November’s elections will be marked by a chaotic legal and political landscape. We also assess that President Trump is likely to contest the result by both legal and extra-legal means, in an attempt to hold onto power.”  

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.