by Gary Olson
Recently I‘ve tried to make the case that only presidential aspirants who are vetted by 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 capitalist state, they often implement policies consistent with those of a psychopath. And they don’t feel guilty about it.
But as a potentially helpful thought experiment, let’s imagine the following scenario. Let’s assume that all the efforts by the DNC and investor blocs failed to sabotage Bernie Sanders’ winning the Democratic nomination in 2016. Further — and it’s not a stretch — let’s assume he soundly beats Trump in the general election. On November 8, 2016, a moderate social democrat (not a democratic socialist) Is the president-elect. What happens on November 9th? The highly respected political scientists William Grover and Joseph Peschek have outlined a highly plausible scenario.
First, global financial markets fall sharply and a “capital strike” looms, with all the fear and chaos that foreshadows. Second, Sanders is under tremendous pressure to assuage Wall Street and calm the markets by only considering cabinet appointments that are acceptable to the real power structure. None of these Senate-approved individuals would support Sanders’ reform program. Finally, Sanders would be, what the authors term, “the prisoner-elect,” a captive to the very system he vowed to alter.*
There would be an almost inconceivable tension between the “popular working class” voters who gave Sanders the victory and the “economic and military forces trying to tame any Bernie beast.” And recall that the winning candidate wasn’t a radical, rarely if ever talked about class, capitalism, empire or Israel and was in many respects a “team player,“ yet he was still seen as a threat. Well, what happens next?
The authors don’t suggest it but since we’re fantasizing here, let’s imagine that Sanders goes on prime time television and spells out exactly what’s happening. It would be the most important teaching moment in U.S. history and put the messenger’s life in peril. The only way around this nullification of democracy would be if millions of citizens took to the streets and demanded Bernie’s program be enacted.
I mention all this to keep things in perspective. Our system is collapsing. We inhabit a failed state with a degraded culture. Changing a few faces and making a few cosmetic alterations haven’t worked in the past. They won’t work now. A different world is possible but we need to jettison magical thinking about what and who we’re up against. I encourage your critical responses.
* For more insights from Grover and Peschek, see their book, The Unsustainable Presidency (NY: Palgrave, 2014.)
Gary Olson is Emeritus Professor of Political Science, Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA. His most recent book is Empathy Imperiled: Capitalism, Culture, and the Brain.