Granted, the media frenzy over “The Donald,” as if he were some sort of political “outsider” riding in on a white horse to save the American people from all those “politicians” running for president, is rather astounding. Crass is in with the mass media. It is hard to find any genuine political process in all the hoopla or in the sniping among the vast array of Republican candidates for the nomination. The Democratic National Committee’s attempt to anoint Hillary as their candidate while snubbing the only candidate of either party – Bernie Sanders – who presents himself as representing actual policy positions is certainly quieter. But it is no less anti-democratic, if less blatantly demagogic, than the likes of a Ted Cruz or a Jeb Bush, or any other member of the GOP Clown Car.
Most fascinating to anyone interested in the process by which the corporate and financial elites control the political processes in the U.S.A., is the relative media attention allocated to Sanders versus Trump. The best the media can do in that regard is to compare the two as “outsiders” appealing to the vast frustration of voters with “establishment politics.” While it is said that Trump is widely despised in New York, it is hard for me to visualize the self-proclaimed billionaire real estate developer as an “outsider.”
Broken Democracy, or Is That Oligarchy Behind the Curtain?
It is also widely acknowledged that “Washington is broken.” Yet, is it really? To be “broken” implies that something was supposed to work in a certain way but due to some problem it does not work properly and needs to be “fixed.” I would suggest that the national political system is not broken; it is working exactly as it is intended by its elites. That is the problem.
Paul Cienfuegos, a regional leader of the Community Rights movement, argues that our nation “more and more resembles a corporate oligarchy.” Sheldon Wolin characterizes our illusory democracy as actually being an “inverted totalitarian” system that maintains the formal trappings of democracy while a corporate-state elite controls the economy and political process. Chris Hedges proclaimed the Death of the Liberal Class, saying that while liberalism once provided the controls over the excesses of corporate capitalism, only the rhetoric remains. Kim Phillips-Fein documents the decades long crusade by business against the New Deal that ultimately destroyed any serious political mitigation of the social damage caused by laissez faire capitalism. These authors have each identified key elements of the pseudo-democracy that has in fact become a plutocracy.
Business won the struggle Phillips-Fein describes; liberalism had provided partial management of capitalism in the public interest, but it was destroyed. Only the rhetorical claims of liberalism serving the public interest remain, as Hedges points out, mostly in the abstractions of the platform and pontifications of Democratic Party politicians. The rest is finance capital managing politics and the economy in its own interests. Legal restrictions on speculation of investment bankers using depositors’ money had restrained finance capital until the elimination of all post-Great-Depression protections. Those restrictions are gone now.
The final blow was begun by Robert Rubin, Bill Clinton’s Treasury Secretary, and completed by the rest of the Goldman Sachs crowd, rotating through the Executive Branch revolving door from Wall Street to the president’s cabinet and back to Wall Street. Every regime since Clinton has allowed the economy to be directed by Wall Street executives such as George Schultz and Timothy Geithner in the sole interests of the Big Banks and investment houses. That, of course, resulted in the financial crash of 2008. And now the Democratic National Committee wants to hand us Clinton II?
Avoiding Catastrophic Destabilization
The deeper problem is that these political-economic developments have accelerated the most destructive tendencies of extractive predatory capital. The planet and its peoples have been plundered at accelerated rates for over two hundred years, but especially over the last half-century. The result is climate destabilization, accompanied by accelerated species extinctions that are synergistically destabilizing local and regional ecosystems around the world. The warming of the planet already results in extreme weather conditions, but will soon also entail consequent massive food-crop failures, mass regional starvation, mass migration, water and other resource wars, and the likely collapse of the global economy. Meanwhile, the charade of political democracy shields the corporate path to human extinction.
Paul Cienfuegos argues that the national complex of legal and regulatory systems is rigged in favor of allowing the corporate destruction of the planet to continue. He suggests that the only way to avoid catastrophic climate destabilization is for local communities to resist. They must pass and enforce local laws that prohibit corporate destructive practices in their towns and counties, even though such laws may violate presumptive state or federal jurisdiction. The democratic rights of communities to protect the health and safety of their citizens must be asserted. That just might be the only way that the affirmation of political democracy can trump political pathology and protect the planet.
 Paul Cienfuegos, “Local Governance,” talk given in Minneapolis, MN, 23 Feb 2015. Transcript from Alternative Radio. http://www.alternativeradio.org/
 Sheldon Wolin, Democracy, Inc.: Managed Democracy and the Spector of Inverted Totalitarianism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008.
Chris Hedges, Death of the Liberal Class. New York: Nation Books, 2010.
 Kim Phillips-Fein, Invisible Hands: The Businessmen’s Crusade Against the New Deal. New York: Norton, 2009.