Originally published on www.PopularResisance.org
November 15th, 2014
In the stark aftermath of the mid-term elections, this is Robert Reich drumming up hope and change: “It’s the choice of the century.” And: “Democrats have less than two years to make it.”
Haven’t we heard that before in every mid-term and presidential election for decades past? And of course we heard the even more urgent version in the run up to these mid-term elections, when Robert Reich, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders all got the memo from MoveOn to ask for three dollar donations. Three, not five. Yes, they asked repeatedly, urgently, earnestly. I know, because I read all the emails MoveOn sends me, and can barely believe my eyes.
Well, the “dark money” won, if we keep a narrow view of present partisan politics. Three dollar donations could not match the “free speech” of billionaires and corporate accounts. On this subject of free speech and the “free market,” even some notable civil libertarians are under the influence of the ruling ideas of the ruling class. Certainly the contradictions of capitalism percolate even into the Op-Ed pages of The New York Times. As Joe Nocera noted in the November 8 issue when writing of Ira Glasser, former head of the American Civil Liberties Union, “Glasser is a First Amendment absolutist. And to him, that means that he supports the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling on Citizens United because he believes virtually all campaign finance laws violate the First Amendment.”
I’m a card-carrying member of the ACLU, but the “free market” is eroding independent media and democracy alike. Even when President Obama spoke in favor of net neutrality, he was not simply moved by conscience but also by waves of civil libertarian protest from citizens across the political spectrum. Net neutrality is a complex issue, but the crux of the matter is keeping the internet as close as possible to a truly public sphere.
There are immense market pressures to monetize as much of the internet as possible, so that profit would once again trump the public interest. My real vote as a citizen is often cast as a message in a bottle on the waves of the internet. I have no illusions that such a vote counts much in our present Congress. But one plus one plus one adds up to a real sum even on the internet, and even a president of thoroughly corporatist convictions could not ignore public opinion in the case of net neutrality.
The Democrats and Republicans keep each other in business. That is also a contradictory story, however. Even in the degraded and anti-democratic state of American elections, living wage campaigns made strong gains among voters in the mid-term elections. Underground streams of class consciousness have sprung into daylight once again, and new class struggles already break across the boundaries of the capitalist parties.