Robert Reich gets it

I picked up this Robert Reich quote from Politico’s Open Mic section, which echoes the sentiments expressed by a Massachusetts voter in my recent post “President Obama, are you listening?”:

A third political party is emerging in America. Call it the I’m-Mad-As-Hell party.

It’s a mistake to see the Mad-As-Hell party as just a right-wing phenomenon – the so-called Tea Partiers now storming the gates of the Republican Party. There are plenty of mad-as-hellers on the left as well – furious at Wall Street, health insurers, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and establishment Democrats.

Mad-as-hellers don’t trust big government. But they don’t trust big business and Wall Street, either. They especially hate it when big government gets together with big business and Wall Street – while at the same time Main Street is in shambles and millions of people are losing their jobs and homes.

First it was TARP, the giant bank bailout that seems to have made Wall Street flush again — so flush the Street is now distributing giant bonuses as if the crash it brought on never happened.

Then came the stimulus package, replete with earmarked goodies for every corporation big enough to hire a team of Washington lobbyists.

And then it was health care, which to some people looked like a sweetheart deal between government and Big Pharma and big health insurers.

To the Mad-As-Hell party, the biggest event last week wasn’t Scott Brown’s upset victory in Massachusetts. It was the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizen’s United vs. the Federal Election Commission, allowing corporations to spend however much they want on political campaigns. True mad-as-hellers see this as inviting even more collusion between big business, Wall Street, and big government – and against the rest of us.

With the mid-term elections months away, both Republicans and Democrats are scrambling to embrace the Mad-As-Hell Party as their own. Republicans are hoping the mad-as-hellers forget the gushing corporate welfare of the Bush administration and the last Republican congress. And Democrats have become born-again economic populists, blaming the nation’s problems on the same “fat cat” bankers and corporate lobbyists they’ve been cozying up to for years.

If the Mad-as-hell Party helps get money out of politics it will do a world of good. I might even join up. But if it just fulminates against the establishment, forget it. Wrecking balls are easy to wield. Rescuing our democracy is hard work.

Reich is a Democrat. I believe it’s tough to hold your nose and vote for a party that stands against everything one believes in, but the Democrats in their current incarnation are unworthy of our support unless they change.  They won’t change if they keep acting as if their base doesn’t matter and yet continue to get elected.  They’ll continue to take us for granted.

I’m also quite skeptical of the apocalyptic claims about how the Supreme Court decision last week banning restrictions on political donations will radically transform and subvert our democracy by empowering corporate control over the political process. Like the Massachusetts senate by-election, I think it’s very clarifying and actually blows a lot of cover.

My skepticism is due to one principal fact:  I really don’t see how things can get much worse in that regard.  The reality is that our political institutions are already completely beholden to and controlled by large corporate interests.  Corporations find endless ways to circumvent current restrictions — their armies of PACs, lobbyists, media control, and revolving-door rewards flood Washington and currently ensure their stranglehold — and while this decision will make things marginally worse, I can’t imagine how it could worsen fundamentally.  As Glenn Greenwald argued in :  All of the hand-wringing sounds to me like someone expressing serious worry that a new law in North Korea will make the country more tyrannical.


Open Mic Jan. 23-4 – The Arena – POLITICO.COM

  1. LavrentiBeria says

    Reich is right to see the so-called, “Mad-As-Hell” Party as having both right and left wings. What he fails to see is the very much in progress absorption of brownshirt, Tea Party activism by the Republican Party, to wit: The Brown victory in Massachusetts last Tuesday. There is simply no analogue to this phenomenon on the left. Left populism, its natural organizing vehicle, the unions, now a shrivelled and moribund vestige, is largely powerless. Apart from single issue advocacy, left populism is voiceless in this country. Its moment is yet to come. When the people discern that Tea Party fascism is in reality hyper-system rather than anti-system, that moment will have arrived. It is almost as though an authentic peoples’ movement must first wait out a fascist impostor before being embraced.

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