Men, Prayer, Politics, Horses, Detroit
The following text is excerpted from a rush transcript as it appears (Creative Commons) on DemocracyNow. Verify content here.
Chris Hedges: “Well, reducing the election to personalities is kind of infantile at this point. The fact is, we live in a system that Sheldon Wolin calls inverted totalitarianism. It’s a system where corporate power has seized all of the levers of control. There is no way to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs or ExxonMobil or Raytheon. We’ve lost our privacy. We’ve seen, under Obama, an assault against civil liberties that has outstripped what George W. Bush carried out. We’ve seen the executive branch misinterpret the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force Act as giving itself the right to assassinate American citizens, including children. I speak of Anwar al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son. We have bailed out the banks, pushed through programs of austerity. This has been a bipartisan effort, because they’ve both been captured by corporate power. We have undergone what John Ralston Saul correctly calls a corporate coup d’état in slow motion, and it’s over.
I just came back from Poland, which is a kind of case study of how neoliberal poison destroys a society and creates figures like Trump. Poland has gone, I think we can argue, into a neofascism. First, it dislocated the working class, deindustrialized the country. Then, in the name of austerity, it destroyed public institutions, education, public broadcasting. And then it poisoned the political system. And we are now watching, in Poland, them create a 30,000 to 40,000 armed militia. You know, they have an army. The Parliament, nothing works. And I think that this political system in the United States has seized up in exactly the same form.
So, is Trump a repugnant personality? Yes. Although I would argue that in terms of megalomania and narcissism, Hillary Clinton is not far behind. But the point is, we’ve got to break away from—which is exactly the narrative they want us to focus on. We’ve got to break away from political personalities and understand and examine and critique the structures of power. And, in fact, the Democratic Party, especially beginning under Bill Clinton, has carried water for corporate entities as assiduously as the Republican Party. This is something that Ralph Nader understood long before the rest of us, and stepped out very courageously in 2000. And I think we will look back on that period and find Ralph to be an amazingly prophetic figure. Nobody understands corporate power better than Ralph. And I think now people have caught up with Ralph.
And this is, of course, why I support Dr. Stein and the Green Party. We have to remember that 10 years ago, Syriza, which controls the Greek government, was polling at exactly the same spot that the Green Party is polling now—about 4 percent. We’ve got to break out of this idea that we can create systematic change within a particular election cycle. We’ve got to be willing to step out into the political wilderness, perhaps, for a decade. But on the issues of climate change, on the issue of the destruction of civil liberties, including our right to privacy—and I speak as a former investigative journalist, which doesn’t exist anymore because of wholesale government surveillance—we have no ability, except for hackers.
I mean, this whole debate over the WikiLeaks is insane. Did Russia? I’ve printed classified material that was given to me by the Mossad. But I never exposed that Mossad gave it to me. Is what was published true or untrue? And the fact is, you know, in those long emails—you should read them. They’re appalling, including calling Dr. Cornel West “trash.” It is—the whole—it exposes the way the system was rigged, within—I’m talking about the Democratic Party—the denial of independents, the superdelegates, the stealing of the caucus in Nevada, the huge amounts of corporate money and super PACs that flowed into the Clinton campaign.
The fact is, Clinton has a track record, and it’s one that has abandoned children. I mean, she and her husband destroyed welfare as we know it, and 70 percent of the original recipients were children. This debate over—I don’t like Trump, but Trump is not the phenomenon. Trump is responding to a phenomenon created by neoliberalism. And we may get rid of Trump, but we will get something even more vile, maybe Ted Cruz….”
CH: “Well, I didn’t back Bernie Sanders because—and Kshama Sawant and I had had a discussion with him before—because he said that he would work within the Democratic structures and support the nominee. And I think we have now watched Bernie Sanders walk away from his political moment. You know, he—I think he will come to deeply regret what he has done. He has betrayed these people who believed in this political revolution. We heard this same kind of rhetoric, by the way, in 2008 around Obama.
A political campaign raises consciousness, but it’s not a movement. And what we are seeing now is furious spin—I listened to Ben Jealous just do it—from the self-identified liberal class. And they are tolerated within a capitalist system, because, in a moment like this, they are used to speak to people to get them to betray their own interests in the name of fear. And I admire Robert and have read much of his stuff and like his stuff, but if you listen to what he’s been saying, the message is the same message of the Trump campaign, and that is fear. And that is all the Democrats have to offer now and all the Republicans have to offer now.
And the fact is, from climate change alone, we have no time left. I have four children. The future of my children, by the day, is being destroyed because of the fact that the fossil fuel industry, along with the animal agriculture industry, which is also as important in terms of climate change, are destroying the ecosystem on which we depend for life. And neither party has any intention to do anything about it….”
CH: “She [Jill Stein] offered to let him run on the top of the ticket. That’s what he should have done. And the fact is, you know, let’s not forget that Bernie has a very checkered past. He campaigned for Clinton in ’92. He campaigned for Clinton again in ’96, after NAFTA—the greatest betrayal of the working class in this country since the Taft-Hartley Act of 1948—after the destruction of welfare, after the omnibus crime bill that exploded the prison population, and, you know, we now have—I mean, it’s just a monstrosity what we’ve done; 350,000 to 400,000 people locked in cages in this country are severely mentally ill. Half of them never committed a violent crime. That’s all Bill Clinton. And yet he went out and campaigned. In 2004, he called on Nader not to run, to step down, so he could support a war candidate like John Kerry. And I’m listening to Jealous before talk about the Iraq War. Sixty percent of the Democratic senators voted for the war, including Hillary Clinton. The idea that somehow Democrats don’t push us into war defies American history…”
CH: “Well, I think we have to acknowledge two facts. We do not live in a functioning democracy, and we have to stop pretending that we do. You can’t talk about—when you eviscerate privacy, you can’t use the word “liberty.” That is the relationship between a master and a slave. The fact is, this is capitalism run amok. This whole discussion should be about capitalism. Capitalism does what it’s designed to do, when it’s unfettered or unregulated—as it is—and that is to increase profit and reduce the cost of labor. And it has done that by deindustrializing the country, and the Clinton administration, you know, massively enabled this.
And, you know, we’re sitting here in Philadelphia. The last convention was in Cleveland. These are Potemkin villages, where the downtowns are Disneyfied, and three and four blocks away people are living in appalling poverty. We have responded to surplus labor, as Karl Marx says, in our deindustrialized internal colonies, to quote Malcolm X, by putting poor people of color in cages all across the country. Why? It’s because surplus labor—corporate entities cannot make money off of surplus or redundant labor. But when you lock them in a cage, they make $40,000 or $50,000 a year. This is the system we live in.
We live in a system where, under Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, the executive branch can put the soldiers in the streets, in clear violation of the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, to see—carry out extraordinary rendition of American citizens who are deemed to be, quote-unquote, “terrorists,” strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military facilities, including in our black sites. We are a country that engages in torture.
We talk—Robert talks about, you know, building movements. You can’t build movements in a political system where money has replaced the vote. It’s impossible. And the Democrats, you know, their bedside manner is different from the Republicans. You know, Trump is this kind of grotesque figure. He’s like the used car salesman who rolls back the speedometer. But Hillary Clinton is like, you know, the managers of Goldman Sachs. They both engage in criminal activities that have—and Clinton’s record, like Trump, exposes this—that have preyed upon the most vulnerable within this country and are now destroying the middle class. And to somehow speak as if we are in a functioning democracy, or speak as if there are any restraints on capitalism, or speak as if the Democratic Party has not pushed forward this agenda—I mean, Obama has done this. You know, he has been as obsequious to Wall Street as the Bush administration. There’s no difference…”
CH: “Well, that’s precisely what we’re trying to do. There is a point where you have to—do I want to keep quoting Ralph?—but where you have to draw a line in the sand. And that’s part of the problem with the left, is we haven’t.
I covered the war in Yugoslavia, and I find many parallels between what’s happening in the United States and what happened with the breakdown of Yugoslavia. What is it that caused this country to disintegrate? It wasn’t ancient ethnic hatreds. It was the economic meltdown of Yugoslavia and a bankrupt liberal establishment that, after the death of Tito, until 1989 or 1990, spoke in the language of democracy, but proved ineffectual in terms of dealing with the plight of working men and women who were cast out of state factories, huge unemployment and, finally, hyperinflation.
And the fact is that these neoliberal policies, which the Democratic Party is one of the engines for, have created this right-wing fascialism. You can go back—this proto-fascism. You can go back and look at the Weimar, and it—Republic—was very much the same. So it’s completely counterintuitive. Of course I find Trump a vile and disturbing and disgusting figure, but I don’t believe that voting for the Democratic establishment—and remember that this—the two insurgencies, both within the Republican Party and the—were against figures like Hillary Clinton, who spoke in that traditional feel-your-pain language of liberalism, while assiduously serving corporate power and selling out working men and women. And they see through the con, they see through the game.
I don’t actually think Bernie Sanders educated the public. In fact, Bernie Sanders spoke for the first time as a political candidate about the reality the public was experiencing, because even Barack Obama, in his State of the Union address, was talking about economic recovery, and everything was wonderful, and people know that it’s not. And when you dispossess—… Let me just finish. Let me finish. When you dispossess that segment, as large as we have—half the country now lives in virtual poverty—and you continue to essentially run a government that’s been seized by a cabal, in this case, corporate, which uses all of the machinery of government for their own enrichment and their own further empowerment at the expense of the rest of the citizenry, people finally react. And that is how you get fascism. That is what history has told us. And to sit by—every time, Robert, you speak, you do exactly what Trump does, which is fear, fear, fear, fear, fear. And the fact that we are going to build some kind of—…amorphous movement after Hillary Clinton—it’s just not they way it works.”
CH:”I don’t think it makes any difference. The TPP is going to go through, whether it’s Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Endless war is going to be continued, whether it’s Trump or Clinton. We’re not going to get our privacy back, whether it’s under Clinton or Trump. The idea that, at this point, the figure in the executive branch exercises that much power, given the power of the war industry and Wall Street, is a myth…”
The full interview can be viewed here: http://www.democracynow.org/2016/7/26/who_should_bernie_voters_support_now