Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The 'Last Hurrah' - Hillary Prevails But Neoliberalism Is The Real Winner

Hillary basks in her historical achievement - a win once again for Neoliberalism.

"The Republican and Democratic parties are both impediments to improving life for the average American. The parties exist only to further the fortunes of party politicians, their puppet masters and the wealthy elites who fund them."  - Commenter on The Financial Times yesterday.

"There's a difference between progressive morality, which is great, and the progressive mindset, which is half OK and half awful." - George Lakoff quoted in Jan. 31, 2014, UK Guardian article.

The above comments are germane as we learned late last night Hillary Rodham Clinton had locked up the Democratic nomination, thereby catapulting herself into American history: becoming the first woman nominee for a major political party. (N.B. The Green Party's Jill Stein is already that party's nominee - but the Greens are a minority party).

Hillary and her devout surrogates (including Sen. Barbara Boxer in an MSNBC spot last night before the election returns began) have maintained she is a "progressive", has a "progressive platform" and Bernie now needs to sign on to ensure a "progressive future". But the problem arises when one compares Hillary's actions, proposals to actual progressive principles. In each case, she doesn't measure up, for example embracing higher taxes as a way to move forward, in health care, infrastructure repair etc. - Hillary demurs, insisting on no tax increases for the middle class. Yet the middle class in poll after poll wants their benefits preserved, not cut.

Thus, to assert one is progressive without actually adhering to progressive actions or principles is an example of framing. In this case a core Neoliberal is using framing to appear as a progressive to secure a victory - first in the primaries, and now in the general election.

Lakoff in his book,  Communicating Our American Values and Vision, gives this summary: "Framing is not primarily about politics or political messaging or communication. It is far more fundamental than that: frames are the mental structures that allow human beings to understand reality – and sometimes to create what we take to be reality. But frames do have an enormous bearing on politics … they structure our ideas and concepts, they shape the way we reason … For the most part, our use of frames is unconscious and automatic."

So, basically, in saying the “progressive mindset is half OK and half awful” Lakoff is  asserting that mock progressives have seized the stage and prevented the genuine progressive from forging a coherent, unified mental structure from which to advance progressive platforms. . Why not? Because Neoliberals have been the ones to co-opt the progressive message, in terms of rhetoric and framing, not action. Neoliberalism last night -using the blinder of gender triumphalism - has again outfoxed millions into catapulting it into the catbird seat. Yes, now "women can do anything" and "little girls can dream big" (as per an HRC tweet) but make no mistake Neoliberalism secured the real triumph.

 Let's examine the basis in more depth including that most voters do not grasp what Neoliberalism is and hence are likely to confuse it with progressivism or genuine liberalism. So, unless they do the heavy lifting of comparing a candidate's rhetoric with actual proposals, actions and they will be "framed" into making the wrong choice: Voting for a Neoliberal when they think they are voting for a progressive.

It is, indeed,  arguable that even a diehard libertarian - who believes he or she is committed to firm libertarian principles- is actually parroting Neoliberal codswallop. The same can be said for modern Dems who fancy themselves classical liberals but are really Neoliberals. As for the Republicans, hell, they've been trapped in the Neoliberal orbit since Ronnie Raygun, given it also depends on military security and fomenting crises to make gains.

The problem with the Neoliberal, pro -free market idiom is that it denies the most basic security for the majority of citizens. In this way it feeds economic inequality while it rewards the speculator and banker class. These in turn help to corrupt the political class via unregulated campaign contributions and pouring in tons of money disguised as "speech". Ignoring all of this ignores why Hillary has become the Dem standard bearer instead of Bernie Sanders:  she is committed to the extension of Neoliberalism and its sister, American exceptionalism.  The Dem party in fact is all in for Neoliberalism so why would they have any more use at all for FDR or JFK-style classical liberalism?

But see, too many people allow their eyes to glaze or roll over when confronted by what they mistakenly believe is political jargon - whether "deep state", "deep politics",  "Neoliberalism" or "New world order". I'm convinced that at root this occurs because too many citizens lack a political ideology. They instead allow themselves to be buffeted this way and that by a corporate media that has no interest whatsoever in informing them concerning political issues and realities. It had more invested in framing and hence Lakoff's objections. writer Anis Shivani has pointed out in a recent piece: "this curious silence, this looking away from ideology, is exactly what has been happening for a quarter century, since neoliberalism, already under way since the early 1970s, got turbocharged by the Democratic party under the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and Bill Clinton. We live under an ideology that has not been widely named or defined!"

By contrast, a person with a core ideology (as I have) instantly recognizes Neoliberalism for what it is - as I have from when it first reared its ugly head.  I knew immediately it was emphatically not the same as classical liberalism and hence all efforts to ape liberalism or progressivism were doomed to fail - in my mind. Why are too many Americans mindfucked into voting for Neoliberals and against their own interests? Well, because it hasn't been defined or widely named so its framing has the ability to misdirect millions.  Citizens' perceptions thus become deformed before they're even aware what's happening. Jay Bookman aptly noted('The New World Disorder Evident Here, Abroad', in The Baltimore Sun, December 15, 1997):

"The global economy has been constructed on the premise that government guarantees of security and protection must be avoided at all costs, because they discourage personal initiative. In times of crisis, however, that premise cannot be sustained politically. In times of trouble it is human nature to seek security and protection and to be drawn toward those who promise to provide it. That is how men such as Adolf Hitler, and Vladimir Ilyich Lenin came to power, with disastrous consequences."

This description of the New World Neoliberal Order is exactly why Neoliberalism must not be carelessly conflated with classical liberalism.The latter had at its root a belief that social protections and insurance had to exist for the most vulnerable, and markets must not be allowed to ride roughshod over basic human security needs.  Shivani, indeed, reinforces Bookman's take in writing:

"Neoliberalism believes that markets are self-sufficient unto themselves, that they do not need regulation, and that they are the best guarantors of human welfare. Everything that promotes the market, i.e., privatization, deregulation, mobility of finance and capital, abandonment of government-provided social welfare, and the reconception of human beings as human capital, needs to be encouraged, while everything that supposedly diminishes the market, i.e., government services, regulation, restrictions on finance and capital, and conceptualization of human beings in transcendent terms, is to be discouraged

Which, of course, is a veritable atrocity because humans - not just the richest-  yearn for security, starting with the economic. Why do you think most of the millions of refugees are fleeing into Europe? Yes many are seeking to escape political turmoil and war, but more than half are fleeing simply to secure an improvement in their economic status. By contrast to classical liberalism as Shivani has put it:

"Neoliberalism has been more successful than most past ideologies in redefining subjectivity, in making people alter their sense of themselves, their personhood, their identities, their hopes and expectations and dreams and idealizations."

Thus, deprived of basic security - even in their jobs - no surprise that so many Americans have now redefined themselves as gig artists running from one "gig" to another whether via Uber, Task Rabbit, or whatever their chosen gig umbrella may be. Totally temporary work, paying no benefits and having no profound ability to alter their lives economically. As Shivani adds, the resignation of being  a permanent temp, whether adjunct prof on food stamps, Task Rabbit jobber or Uber driver who can't even afford an AirBnB shack- leads to alteration of identity and permanent state of mind fuck. It also leads to ever higher rates of suicide in all age groups from 18-26 to 27-35, to 36- 49, to 50- 68,  69-74 as reported in the (June) AARP Bulletin, 'Suicide Rates Soar to 30-Year High After Financial Crisis', p. 4. . The Bulletin pins these increased rates on a "sense of financial despair and hopelessness" present since the 2008 financial crisis - which, of course, was triggered by Neoliberal market excess pertaining to credit default swaps and bundling them into securities  (mainly CDOs) rated 'AAA'.

Shivani adds:

"neoliberalism is the final completion of capitalism’s long-nascent project, in that the desire to transform everything—every object, every living thing, every fact on the planet—in its image had not been realized to the same extent by any preceding ideology"

Take the case of the Ukraine, where the unrest two years ago was fomented by U.S. Neoliberals and their neocon sidekicks,  driving NATO expansion to the east. The cover story sold was that the "people wanted freedom". Transl,:  being aligned with the EU and the West. The truth is that having gone that route they've become economic slaves to the Neoliberal  Economic Order and are now in a state of permanent debt to it. Indeed, the delivery of IMF and EU funds has seen as one of the first offsets the proposed cutting of all public pensions and abolition of all rigid price controls, as well as painful cuts to public subsidies. Those Ukrainians who pined for "freedom" would have been better served to have pondered FDR's famous words:

"Necessitous men cannot be free men."

Also no surprise when we visited Hungary last year, the tour guide (for a tour through Budapest) confided to me during our luncheon dining experience: "Yes, we threw off the yoke of communism, but we're now serving our capitalist masters. I have to work two tours a day seven days a  week just to make rent and food for my family."

And looked before they leaped into the Neoliberal Abyss (which they might have asked EU Sovereign debt victim Greece about). Perhaps the most impacting and relevant observation made by Shivani is:

"neoliberalism thrives on prompting crisis after crisis, and has proven more adept than previous ideologies at exploiting these crises to its benefit, which then makes the situation worse, so that each succeeding crisis only erodes the power of the working class and makes the wealthy wealthier. There is a certain self-fulfilling aura to neoliberalism, couched in the jargon of economic orthodoxy, that has remained immune from political criticism, because of the dogma that was perpetuated—by Margaret Thatcher and her acolytes—that There Is No Alternative (TINA)."

Why do you suppose Hillary, now Dem standard bearer, remains averse to disclosing her Wall Street speeches, e.g. to the Neolib speculators at Goldman Sachs? It's because these speculators are dedicated to the spread of market ideology and making the wealthy wealthier. How else can Neolib pols remain in power and keep getting money for campaigns? How else can the speculators gain favors from the pols once they're elected? It's a vicious cycle.  But make no mistake Hillary will play the 'first woman president in history" card to the hilt to blind followers and others to the Neoliberalisn underpinning her policies.

Nevertheless, Hillary still has to become first woman President to fulfill her ultimate aspirations and those of millions of women across the nation who vicariously identify with her struggle. But as an op-ed in yesterday's NY Times noted, to accomplish this she will almost certainly need Bernie's supporters. The op-ed maintains she will need to do the following to get most on board:

1- Come clean about her Wall Street speeches, releasing the full transcripts.

2- Cease being dodgy about her wrongdoing in respect to having a separate email server. Admit that she's wrong, instead of using the incessant, transparent excuses which sensible people (real progressives) can easily see through. 

In a way it's ludicrous to those of us who are classical liberals, because Hillary was among the first and most outspoken wanting to hang Ed Snowden out to dry for his "security transgressions"  and yet she appears ready to walk away from her own unscathed.

The Times doesn't mention a 3rd one, and it's kind of been in the undercurrents, but I'd also like to see warhawk Hill renounce using military force unless it's a case of genuine national security threat. No more Iraq -type invasions, say for Syria, Iran or the Crimea, in other words.

Do all that and she might, I say might, get Bernie's supporters to turn out and become 45th President of these United States.

But that will require Hillary cone clean and renounce the Neoliberal framing and obfuscation. A small price to pay for later success, but the question remains whether she can do it. Let us say time will tell and until then the 'jury is out".

See also:

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