The Scapegoats of Empire

For elites, anything that distracts from empire is a good thing

The Green Party might have had a realistic chance for the presidency had Bernie Sanders not amputated his “political revolution” and instead joined presidential nominee Jill Stein on the Green ticket. But Sanders was the sheep-dogging company man Glen Ford at Black Agenda Report said he was. The Green Party will not win this year, but with support it may win soon. A decade ago Syriza in Greece polled at five percent. Now it is in power. In 1853 there was no Republican Party. In 1861 they put an abolitionist in the White House. Stranger things have happened. Of course, one could also point out that Hitler was polling at 4 percent in 1928. That historical horror aside, the population is a sleeping giant waiting to be woken up en masse. If the disaffected non-voters and the disillusioned independents and the disbelieving Sandernistas all came together, they might topple the prevailing orthodoxy of corporate power, neoliberal economics, and military imperialism. But until that happens, the future sequence of events will unfold like a careworn roadmap of familiar territory.

Scapegoats and Complicit Dems

The volume will rise among the punditry. The calls will grow shrill in the agitprop rags of the intelligentsia. The heckling will grow harsher in the social media ghetto. And, as we’re already seeing, the collective boombox of the media will hound us into electing Hillary to spare the nation the unimaginable nightmare of The Donald. And we know who will be scapegoated if the corporate liberals’ precious candidate is not elected: everyone that voted for a Green New Deal and against imperialism. Hell hath no fury like a neoliberal denied. But even though Clinton will coast to victory, her minions will harrow the errant electorate back to its hiding place on the fringe of the mainstream, there to dwell in ignominy for four more years, while the liberals scuttle criticism of their grandam-in-chief and build plinths for every incremental victory her multi-colored cabinet effects. Though indicted in court of public opinion, third party voters will be innocent of the charge. In the end, it took a Clinton to create a Trump, and a Trump to elect another Clinton.

It should always be remembered that Bill Clinton presided over the Democratic Party’s decision to chase the corporate money with the same vigor as Republicans. It chose power over principle, surely salving its conscience with the lie that it could have it both ways. This fatal shift caused the Republicans, shocked and angry and wrong-footed, to scamper further to the right, ceding ground to the nativists and zealots that furnished their party with a patina of principle and the stiffened spine of the pious, until finally the party devolved into the swamp of demagoguery it is today. But it is from this reactionary encampment at the far end of the spectrum that comes the sole candidate the deeply unpopular Hillary Clinton is capable of defeating.

The Usefulness of a Trump Card

As Andrew Stewart recently lamented, Trump “…scares well-intentioned but still-racist white liberals into a self-aggrandizing pity party wherein they will say anything and everything about how we just must elect Hillary Clinton.” Stewart traces the logic by which a comprador corporate media lifted Donald Trump into the national spotlight, legitimizing his rambling unscripted bigotry just enough to enable him to seize the tarnished crown of a discredited Republican party.

Trump is a distraction, a foil that by contrast brightens Hillary’s appeal. He should have never been given the benefit of the doubt by the media, but he is useful for the establishment provided he doesn’t win. Besides, sensationalism sells, and the bottom line trumps any lingering concern for actual journalism, a once-robust profession now relegated to underfunded investigative reporters on the cusp of obscurity, though some, like Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill, gain the rare advantage of lavish funding and limited censorship. Kurt Vonnegut once noted that the entire Nazi regime could have been averted had the public just laughed Adolf Hitler out of the Austrian beer halls where he gave his early stump speeches. Instead they gave him a platform. As the media have given Trump. But now, having given him a pulpit, they want to excommunicate him. After all, Trump frightened the establishment when his poll numbers surged. As a man of his own means, he can say practically anything he likes, including statements about restoring working class jobs, withdrawing from NATO, scrapping NAFTA, and so forth. These are critical planks in the one-percent program for full-spectrum dominance. Even if Trump’s overture to the working class is nothing more than a cynical ploy, he’s too unpredictable not to scare elite wealth. Which is why the elite-owned media is bludgeoning its readership with doomsday scenarios, one after another. But should Trump pull a world-historical upset and win, the media hammer will fall on another useful diversion, the nonconformists.

The Ghost of Nadirs Past

We’ve been down that road before. We must defeat Bush. We must defeat Dole. We must defeat Bush the Younger. We must defeat McCain. We must defeat Romney. Were it not for third partiers and our purblind allegiance to Ralph Nader, we’d have all been spared Iraq. Actually, very few of us experienced Iraq, except in sanitized MSM reports riddled with fake evidence, truncated casualty reports, and false progress. Be that as it may, our maimed, PTSD afflicted veterans, and millions of dead or displaced Iraqis have been laid at our feet. Should Trump get elected and decide to start a series of pitiless wars against defenseless countries, their dead, too, would be set at our doorstep, another stern rebuke for veering from the two-party path.

Of course, in Florida 2000, some 250,000 registered Democrats voted for George Bush. The Democrats’ candidate was such a nerveless zombie he was cast out of his own state, like a Biblical prophet chased from home. He hemorrhaged Democrats. Yet we were to blame for not voting for a party to which we did not belong, and for a candidate we did not like. One might point out the fact that it is rather those that voted for Bush who ought to be shamed for their choice. Yet even they weren’t aware of the hard right turn that 9/11 would enable.

Third-party voters are another useful distraction. They provide an easy target for angry liberals looking to vent their spleen after losing an election or nearly losing one (it is easy to become angry over what one perceives as unnecessary risk-taking). Yet Jill Stein is a far better woman than Hillary Clinton, but Green Party members get no credit from anyone for trying to elect of a woman to the highest office in the land. They are categorically dismissed as an impediment to the advancement of women. That advancement, while genuine insofar as it sets aside gender or race as prohibitive criteria for higher office, is insidious in what it demands of its historically unique candidates. It insists they conform to a pro-war, pro-austerity, pro-Wall Street, and anti-democratic platform so that the elected may claim that at least the platform is not racist or misogynist. This, though, is hardly even a half-truth. Obama is a figurehead, as will be Hillary. Institutional racism charges on. White households have $111,000 in “wealth holdings” versus $7,000 for African-Americans and $8,000 for Latinos. The neoliberal economic system Hillary backs has produced zero wage growth for women in the last decade. Millions of the people on the welfare systems kneecapped by the Bill Clinton administration were the children of women. Women headed Seventy-five percent of poor households as recently as 2012. All of this is not to mention a much larger crime: the deliberate destruction of societies abroad. By and large, it is nonwhites who are either killed or have their lives destroyed as a result of the United States’ imperial wars of choice. None were necessary, but all were fatal. Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia. How many of the Arab or Persian or African women impacted by our imperial assaults–several of them pressed for by Hillary Clinton–would call Clinton a trailblazer for women’s rights?

This is the crux of it. Democrats and Republicans may differ on the role of government in our lives. Republicans are increasingly anti-state. Democrats like Barack Obama have sometimes pushed through policies that positively increased the state’s role in American lives–squeezing more Pell Grants out of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), extra funding for food stamps, higher emissions standards, some leniency toward non-violent drug offenders. But on balance these gains pale in comparison to the catalog of crimes that lead to more college debt, the need for more food stamps, the devastating consequences of climate change, and the incarceration of more young black men. Not to mention more slaughter of men, women, and children abroad. This is the darker reality that the vilification of Donald Trump and the scapegoating of third-party voters hides from the headlines. The Trumps and Naders of the political world provide a needful diversion from the plainer truth that the Democratic Party is the last refuge of a scoundrel, and by far the more efficient and effective quarterback of the empire’s game plan.

At the Green Party convention, Jill Stein noted that since 9/11, the War on Terror has cost $6 trillion including healthcare of veterans. Coincidentally–or perhaps not–the Pentagon conceded, albeit in jumbled legalese, that it cannot account for some $6.5 trillion in taxpayer money. This is the consequence of an imperial system ruled by pro-war, pro-austerity, pro-Wall Street elites that comprise a radical minority willing to efface and suborn war and murder if a profit might be gleaned from it. Surely the defense, energy, and finance industries make more than a handsome profit from perpetual war. They must therefore ensure that we as a people are focused on identity politics or other issues that neither interest nor threaten corporate power. Thus in November we will shatter another glass ceiling while killing the democratic hopes of another generation of women and the men they raise.

Jason Hirthler is a writer, political commentator, and veteran of the communications industry. He has written for many political communities. He is the recent author of Imperial Fictions, a collection of essays from between 2015-2017. He lives in New York City and can be reached at Read other articles by Jason.