US Elections, “Populism,” & the Growing Frustration w/ Capitalism

capitalism vs. populismThe internet at large has judged 2016 pretty harshly — if you don’t know what I’m talking about, just take a look at John Oliver’s video, “Fuck 2016,” or the article, “Fuck You, 2016,” published by the Atlantic. Or — if you’re also miffed & want to join in the fun — I can even recommend the subreddit, /r/Fuck2016, where there’s an entire forum of 17,000+ subscribers who have the same opinion. To be fair, 2016 is the year that gave us Brexit, Zika, & President Donald Trump, while taking David Bowie, Prince, Professor Snape, & Leonard Cohen away from us. For progressives & other leftists, however, it was also a YUGE milestone — it was the year it became okay to question capitalism in the United States, again.

Neoliberal Capitalism
Just Isn’t Working

Watching the talking heads at MSNBC totally freak out was one of the only things I could enjoy during the last days of the 2016 US presidential elections. Even after spending months repressing Bernie Sanders’ anti-establishment movement on the left (as democrats’ leaked emails show) the media somehow managed to be genuinely shocked that Trump was elected. In the aftermath, they churned out hundreds of articles to rationalize the defeat they’d failed to predict. Every pundit seemed to have a theory about it and liberal fingers were pointed at everyone & everything but themselves — from Russia & Putin to Macedonian teenagers peddling click-bait & third-party voters. These geniuses investigated the possibility that voting-machines were hacked, “fake news,” & even covert Russian propaganda campaigns but it never entered their minds that maybe — just maybe — the current system simply wasn’t working out for a lot of people.

Maybe there was some kind of — oh, I don’t know, reason— some kind of “reason” that the US voted the way it did…? Nah! Obviously there was a covert, third-party conspiracy to hack voting machines, led by Putin because he hates our freedom! Case closed — checkmate!

From Donald Trump to Bernie Sanders:
The Rise of the So-Called “Populists”

The media ( & those who believed them ) didn’t see Trump’s election coming for the same reason their candidate lost to him — they are completely out of touch with economic reality. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Joe Scarborough, & Chris Matthews, for instance, make $2m, $3.5m, & $4.5 million-per-year, Bob Woodward of the Washington Post makes $2.5m& GQ’s Keith Olbermann rakes in $7.5 million! To put that in perspective, the bottom 50% of the US makes less than 0.4% of what Olbermann does.

Capitalism, socialism, populismI’m not trying to pick on wealthy folks — it just makes a lot more sense when you understand that the media-celebrities live on the other side of the wealth-gap created by US policies. They really believe everything’s fine because — for them — it is. That’s why their smug prediction of a democratic victory was a giant pile of fail and it’s also why they repeatedly underestimated Bernie Sanders during the primaries. It’s the reason they use the word “populist” for both Sanders’ & Trump’s messages — they simply don’t get it. Populism is just a catch-all term that politicians & pundits use to label popular movements they don’t like or understand. Boxing people in makes them feel safer & smarter. Throughout history, the word has been applied to groups on the right, the left, & the in-between and so it has no real meaning.

Neoliberal Capitalism Made People Poor
& Being Poor Makes People Cranky

It’s not complicated. The “basement-dwelling” Sandernista saying the 1% exploits the working class and the “deplorable” Trumpeteer saying NAFTA shipped their job to China both agree on one very important point — the current system, whatever you want to call it, isn’t working for them. Trump wasn’t elected because the United States suddenly became more racist than it already was nor was it because Putin teamed up with Macedonian teenagers to brainwash 63 million people with click-bait news. Voters chose Trump because anything — any sort of “hope,” “change,” or even “greatness” ( whatever that is… ) — literally anything  seemed like a step up from politicians who believe the country’s fine the way it is.

Populism vs. Clinton
A rare photo of Clinton’s platform

If you look at states that the liberal pundits were most wrong about — Pennsylvania & Florida, for instance — you’ll notice Trump’s victory was built from the same working-class votes that wanted Barack Obama’s “change” in 2008 & 2012. The last time the democrats were given the White House, however, people who voted for new ideas were instead given the same, neoliberal policies of the Clinton-Bush-eras, repackaged with a shiny, new logo & a concession or two — but Obama kept the change. If voters were given more choices, it may have been different — some of Trump’s supporters say they might’ve voted for Bernie, in fact. They want change and — though it’s hard to guess what Trump will accomplish — I’d bet the farm that “change,” in one way or another, is just around the corner…

The US Wants Alternatives
To Republicans & Democrats

The people of the United States despise congress — their approval rating is currently sitting just above their all-time low, at 18%. According to Gallup’s most recent polling, a solid 60% say they want alternatives to republicans & democrats, while less than 40% have a favorable view of either party, 47% say they’d consider voting for a socialist, & an immense 73% say they’re dissatisfied with the direction the US is going!

congress approval graph - US Elections, "Populism," & the Growing Frustration w/ CapitalismIt is a fact that most citizens don’t like their government’s policies & very few of them say they’re satisfied with the US — a country which happens to be the direct result of neoliberal-capitalist policy. Call it whatever you’d like but statistics tell us that most are unhappy with whatever this — our current political & economic environment — is. Again, use whatever words you want — but there’s a technical term for it & that term is, indeed, capitalism

In 2016, significant parts of both parties’ voters went completely renegade. Some people crossed party-lines, others went third-party, & some stood paralyzed between two evils –but, if the numbers are correct, then we all have a whole lot more in common with a lot more people than we thought. Most of us agree that both parties are awful, that the government is awful, that the economy is awful,& that US elections are the absolute worst — so, isn’t it time we started questioning the partisan labels that divide us?

In solidarity,
John Laurits

Recent Articles by John Laurits
 The Electoral College Chose Trump — Now, Organize! (12/19)
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Counter-Propaganda Bill Quietly Creates US Propaganda Factory
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#DAPL Easement Denied & What That Means (12/4)
Real News or Fake News: Who Gets to Decide? (11/20)
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US Claims Russia is Influencing the Election by Telling the Truth?
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How Both Parties Ignore the Majority
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[…] Articles by John Laurits Recent Polls Say Nobody Else Trusts the Media, Either (12/30) US Elections, “Populism,” & the Growing Frustration w/ Capitalism (12/23)  Return of the Blacklist: What’s Next — Book Burning? (12/15) […]

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[…] & Why That Would Be Insane (1/05) Recent Polls Say Nobody Else Trusts the Media, Either (12/30) US Elections, “Populism,” & the Growing Frustration w/ Capitalism (12/23)  Return of the Blacklist: What’s Next — Book Burning? (12/15) […]

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[…] & Why That Would Be Insane (1/05) Recent Polls Say Nobody Else Trusts the Media, Either (12/30) US Elections, “Populism,” & the Growing Frustration w/ Capitalism (12/23)  Return of the Blacklist: What’s Next — Book Burning? (12/15) […]

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