What happened to the populist left?
Against the surreal backdrop of sometimes violent nationwide protests, an alarming story, as reported by The New York Times seems to have slipped under the radar. Police arrested a 21-year-old Idaho man on suspicion of firing a semi-automatic rifle at the White House. Days before the arrest, the Secret Service responded to reports of gunfire near the National Mall and tracked a vehicle leaving the area on Constitution Avenue. They found the vehicle with an AK-47 abandoned and housed inside and soon after pulled out several bullets that hit the White House. The suspect’s relatives told investigators that he had a “fixation” on the White House and the president.
It really happened, but not during the chaotic Stop the Steal rally earlier this month or one of the fiery demonstrations across the country last summer. It was Wednesday, November 16, 2011, during the protests on Occupy Wall Street.
As the media and the incoming Biden administration frolic over Trump’s failed “insurrection,” it is fashionable for conservatives to point out the obvious double standards the media has in comparing the events of last week and the BLM and antifa riots of the past apply year, with the latter many commands being more violent and destructive. Axios reports that insurance claims for the riot could approach $ 2 billion and that an estimated 30 people, many of whom were African American, have lost their lives.
Interesting – and alarming – however, is also the fate of the progressive Occupy Wall Street movement and the left-wing populist movement that sparked it. If the 2008 bailouts were your spark, where are you now in the midst of the pandemic, when corporate profits have risen and middle-to-low-income workers have been crushed?
The answer is that they have been cast themselves – transformed, renamed, and diverted from corporations and media. As Vladimir Lenin once said: “The best way to control the opposition is to lead it yourself.”
The government’s response to the 2008 financial crisis was unique in that it condemned both the left and the right. Take, for example, President Reagan’s first director of the budget, David Stockman, who said, “A crucial turning point in the development of American capitalism and democracy – the triumph of crony capitalism – occurred on October 3rd, 2008.” On that day, the $ 700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) was passed to save Wall Street. Stockman’s book, The big deformationis a 768-page manifesto on moral outrage accusing the state and its central bank of becoming students of misguided “Keynesianism, monetarism and supply-sideism”.
Despite the promised changes, President Obama disappointed many of his optimistic voters. As reported by Politico In December 2011, Obama had received more funding from the financial elite than any other GOP candidate combined. Smoldering resentment and the disappointment of the Obama presidency led to the creation of Occupy Wall Street, which launched in September 2011 and called for an increase in the minimum wage, environmental protection and debt relief for students. Their motto was “We are the 99%” and their enemy was the other 1 percent: the corporate elite.
The Occupy Wall Street message generally contained no mention of race, creed, or ancestry. It was Marxist: the haves against the have-nots, the oppressors against the oppressed, the 99 percent against the 1 percent. While their solutions may have been wrong and unrealistic, their forecast was not exactly inaccurate. The inequality of wealth had skyrocketed. The nefarious actions of Wall Street companies should have been punished and not rewarded. AIG’s bailout had dwarfed all combined editions of the grocery stamp program since its inception in the 1960s.
In the face of simmering anger, the corporate media soon went to bat to reprogram their attackers. Thanks to the careful research of political scientist Zach Goldberg, we know that post-Occupy press actions did not fit into a coherent, organized pattern. In an article for tablet In August 2020, Goldberg presents a graph that clearly shows that the media’s use of racial terms in their opinion and coverage skyrocketed around 2012. Goldberg points out that “alertness” – what he defines as “the sensitivity of highly educated and hyper-liberal white professionals” to elements of black nationalism and academic critical racial theory “- was in our political discourse long before the BLM and Antifa-led riots last year present.
As mentioned in his graphics, the use of the words “racist / racist / racism” increased from 2011 to 2018 The New York Times and The Washington Post by around 700 percent and 1,000 percent, respectively. His bottom line is that the media has come up with a narrative explaining the differences in our society that are not due to talent or work ethic, or even to the Crony capitalists of Wall Street and the 1 percent, but rather to bias – especially racial bias.
But was this coverage effective in reprogramming the left? Goldberg seems to believe this: “In particular, I find that the causal effects of racial media coverage are greatest for white Democrats and Liberals, weaker for non-white Democrats and Liberals, and largely non-existent for white Republicans and Conservatives.”
Populism is the enemy of the current American regime, left or right. By including left-wing populists in the fight against “white supremacy”, this regime has succeeded in fending off a two-front war – and actually playing off one of its enemies against the other. Corporate power simply absorbed and pretended to lead the left-wing populist movement as it, along with the press and its government allies, launched an attack on right-wing populists.
The election of Donald Trump shook the American regime to the core. Left or right-wing populism is never a good sign for elites, but during the Trump era, left and right-wing populists sounded dangerously similar. The emerging convergence threatened a substantial, effective political movement against the elite.
It’s noteworthy how the media wrote a corporate-friendly narrative to spread that anger and then redirect it. Bernie Sanders’ metamorphosis in 2016 to his 2020 candidacy serves as an educational case study. In 2015, Sanders attacked open borders as a proposal by the Koch brothers, essentially tying corporate interests with lowering wages and maximizing profits to increase illegal immigration. Sander’s populist message was race or religion free and focused only on class.
With their control over moral narrative in political space, the media and corporations have labeled the struggle for justice a struggle for race and oppression rather than populism and cronyism. The entire left, including its populist wing and the Bernie camp, was included in the racial narrative. It was no longer about economic oppression or injustice; it was about racist Oppression and injustice. The problem we faced was not the rule of the elites, but the continued rule of white supremacy.
What the average person doesn’t understand is that when the modern project refers to “white supremacy” after 1619, it doesn’t mean David Duke or Nathan Bedford Forrest. You mean the founding fathers and the nation that was born after the revolution. Just as Adam’s sin was passed on to all mankind, so were the sins of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson passed on to all white Americans.
It’s ironic that it was the same left-wing protesters who called for bankers to be prosecuted and imprisoned a few years ago these Year requested (and attempted) removal of a statue of President Andrew Jackson? Jackson has been called the first populist president by many historians and actually fought against the bankers he described as the “brood of the vipers”. It was his tenacious resolve against Secretary of the Treasury Nicolas Biddle that ended the Second Bank of the United States in 1836 and ensured the absence of a central bank until the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1914. But Jackson’s sins against Native Americans deny him any place in a new narrative that focuses on race. One of the great heroes of American populism is not only forgotten, but demonized. Jackson gets a settlement and the bankers he convicted get away with it.
Talk about the misdirection of your enemies’ firepower.
Jeff Groom is a former naval officer. He is the author of American Cobra Pilot: A Marine remembers a dog and pony show (2018). Follow him on Twitter @ BigsbyGroom.
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