If “We the People” are going to preserve American democracy we need to clearly identify who threatens it. At this crucial moment in history, the gravest threat to U.S. democracy is coming from corporate authoritarians, including members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street, Fox News, right-wing talk radio, Silicon Valley, the oil, coal, and gas industries, and America’s arms manufacturers.
For the past three decades, corporate authoritarians and their hacks in the U.S. government have taken us to war on false premises and without our consent, repeatedly cut taxes for the rich, squashed labor unions, slashed social services for the poor and marginalized, and purposely gummed up Congress to prevent effective reform and corporate regulation. It’s hardly a secret that America’s authoritarians share the same set of values as Russia’s corporate elite. Neither group has any interest in democracy. They both want to run their respective societies as they run their businesses – from the top down, with them on top and everyone else down.
Progressives and members of the Democratic Party have long deluded themselves in believing that political circumstances would change for the better after the next congressional or presidential election; or after the overturning of Citizens United; or after the Democrats succeeded in appointing a 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court; or after Red states such as North Carolina turned solidly Blue.
The American Left needs to quit kidding itself. The authoritarians are not going to stop until they destroy the American Left. Men like Art Pope, Charles Koch, Steve Bannon, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, Harold Hamm, and Peter Thiel are not interested in true participatory democracy. They despise democratic process. They hate free speech, a critical media, an activist, objective scientific community, and a socially-aware populace. Everyone of them wants the establishment of a corporate police state, run by and for the very richest of the rich. They seek nothing less than the unconditional surrender of the American Left. This isn’t fear-mongering, it is fact.
What is the Left to do? Attempts at compromise with the authoritarians have failed – and failed miserably. After trying for decades to seek a moderate, institutional route to reform – the Left is now confronted with a fascist in the White House. There is no greater signal of the failure of the Left’s politics of moderation than the Trump presidency.
Compromise, accommodation, and patience have gotten the Left to this dire point in history. And yet, the Democratic Party elite still calls for acceptance of the radical right and Trump. Last month, Hillary Clinton stated that the Left needed to give Trump a chance. No, the Left should not give the fascist a chance. It should not give him an inch. An impassioned, coordinated, and targeted obstructionism should confront Trump from the very first day of his presidency.
For far too long, corporate authoritarians have succeeded in distorting America’s institutions for their own self-interested agenda. The Left, long dominated by Clintonian Democrats, made the mistake of fighting its battles with the radical right in arenas that favored big corporate money – such as in the halls of Congress or along K Street.
Rather than continue to fight its political battles in areas that favor the corporate elite, the Left needs to open new political fronts, fronts where the authoritarians are at a distinct disadvantage. In military parlance – this approach is referred to as asymmetrical warfare. In essence, the Left needs to mobilize at the grassroots level the mass of the American people – focusing on the urban and rural poor, the white middle class, college students, minorities, women, and the LGBT community. Only mass grassroots mobilization can overcome the monetary and institutional advantages of the corporate order.
Once mobilized, “We the People” need to practice a form of political action outside of established institutions and norms. That means engaging in mass, non-violent protests, mass boycotts (of such corporations as Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil, Georgia-Pacific, etc….) mass labor strikes (in support of a livable wage for all workers), and ultimately mass political organization. The recent Standing Rock protest serves as an example of a grassroots movement worthy of emulation.
The Left must never forget the primary lesson of 2016 – compromise and accommodation with corporate authoritarianism was not only naive, it was politically disastrous.