I’m still reeling from last Tuesday’s election results and am trying to think of the questions that it raises going forward. I don’t know that I have much that’s original to add, but here goes:
First, and foremost, so much comes down to the role that corporate money plays in the democratic party. 6 million fewer democrats voted in this election than in 2012. I think this lack of turnout has to be put in context. To be sure, democrats had a candidate that had appalling favorability likings. These are things that have to be taken seriously in the age of the politics of affect. Democrats simply can’t run candidates on the basis of impressive resumes, but who fail to excite and hope to win. This is the third time they’ve done this in recent history (Gore and Kerry before).
However, more importantly, this was an election that followed the ’08 financial collapse and the Occupy Wall Street protests. While the stock market has recovered and jobs have slowly returned, people feel extreme economic precariousness, that they will never be able to retire, and that it is impossible to get ahead or send their children to college. They are drowning in debt and are struggling to make ends meet every month. The decision to run Clinton– and don’t kid yourselves, it was a foregone conclusion on the part of the party from the beginning –was nothing short of bizarre as she lacked credibility on all of these key issues. Her husband had played a key role in deregulating business in the ways that led to the financial collapse, he played a key role in the trade agreements that destroyed jobs and livelihoods, she made hundreds of thousands of dollars giving speeches to Wall Street, pushed TPP, and had larger corporate campaign contributions than any other presidential candidate in history. She could talk until she was blue in the face about the economy and many still would not trust her because of these things.
The democratic party finds itself in a very difficult position. In order to run general elections these days, massive amounts of money are needed (though Trump put the lie to this axiom). This means that they’re convinced they need these corporate campaign contributions. However, if they take those contributions they can’t address the issues that bring voters to the polls because doing so in a meaningful way threatens the interests of the banks and corporations. Take a close look at Clinton’s platform. I defy you to find a single proposal that in any way significantly threatens the interests of big moneyed interests. During the primaries and the general election I watched democratic partisans and true believers insist that big money doesn’t corrupt the political process. Yet is it a mistake that there’s no aspect of her platform that significantly challenges the interests of banks, insurance companies, energy companies, private prisons, pharmaceutical companies, the growing educational industry (charter schools and testing companies), etc., etc., etc? While clearly racism, Comey, and sexism all played key roles in Clinton’s loss, I think that the democratic party’s ability to meaningfully represent people in terms of their economic interests is what, more than anything, lost the election.
In a recent interview, Zizek draws on Chomsky’s concept of “manufacturing consent” with an interesting twist, to make the point that in our current age consent has disappeared. By “manufactured consent” Zizek has in mind the shared reality that belongs to society. In this respect, he shifts the Chomskyian meaning of the concept from propaganda to the construction of shared social reality. In every community there’s a base of “facts” that go without question that form the horizon or ground for interactions among people. One feature of a society or community is that there is something like a shared set of “facts” as to what is real; regardless of whether or these things really are facts or not. People might disagree as to what is to be done about these things or what might be the best way to address them, but they don’t disagree, at least, that these things are real. In other words, it is not just communication or shared symbols that define a society, but a shared world.
read on! (more…)