In January, The Brookings Institute published a report entitled “Is democracy failing and putting our economic system at risk?” Baked into its thesis is the faulty presumption that democracy can and should exist to accommodate capitalism - a practical impossibility since capitalism is inherently antidemocratic. And so truly, it’s the failure of our economic system that’s exposing our so-called democracy for the sham it’s always been.
For the liberal class, this realization isn’t coming easily. Their entire worldview is predicated upon the notion that capitalism and democracy can in fact complement each other so long as economic opportunity is evenly distributed among people of all colors, creeds, genders, orientations, etc.. Of course, this is a delusion. Capitalism is an economic system in which one uses their existing advantage (capital) to accrue further advantage (more capital) in a market which inevitably becomes more and more unequal, both in outcomes and opportunities. As inequality worsens, social cohesion deteriorates, and the “democratic” system in which all of this takes place collapses.
We’re in the throes of this right now. The January 6th hearings, an endless sequence of horrific mass shootings, runaway inflation, and the Supreme Court’s string of draconian rulings are making the unraveling of both our economic and political systems clear as day for all to see.
If we had an actual Left in this country with both the will and the ability to create a democratic economy more compatible with political democracy, there might be some hope that this trend could be reversed. Instead, we have a liberal opposition whose only response to social, economic, and political collapse is indignation and resentment that the pseudo-democracy they’ve enjoyed until now isn’t good enough for everyone else.
Nowhere is this more evident than in their response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Liberals decry the revocation of their rights to reproductive healthcare, as they should. However, many of these same people consistently vote against progressives in their own party who advocate for allforms of healthcare as a human right. This is a perfect example of trying to fit the square peg of capitalism into the round hole of liberal democracy. Liberals want abortion rights, but they don’t want to enshrine all forms of healthcare as a right by passing something like Medicare For All. Hillary Clinton, in the wake of the Court’s decision on Roe, warned that that “women will die” as a result. This is the same Hillary Clinton who said loudly and proudly at a 2016 campaign rally that universal healthcare would “never, ever come to pass.” Approximately 10,000 American women die each year because they can’t afford medical care. Hillary would have you believe that women’s deaths from unsafe back-alley abortions are an outrage, but women’s deaths due to lack of healthcare affordability are an inescapable reality we’ll all just have to accept as a sacrifice at the altar of the market. What moral or political sense does this make? None at all, except that it has the blessing of our “centrist” political and media establishment.
Until recently, this “center” they love so much - ie, abortion access inside an inhumane market-based healthcare system - has more or less held. The 2016 Sanders campaign was the voice in the wilderness warning mainstream liberals that it wouldn’t hold much longer. And now, here we are. Liberals mostly blame Donald Trump for this, as well as those they feel paved the way for his election - Bernie Bros, Susan Sarandon, Jill Stein, James Comey, and Vladimir Putin. But in reality, it was their delusional insistence that democracy can be preserved without challenging capitalism that ushered in this new dystopia. Furthermore, their continued belief that such a balance is both feasible and desirable is what explains the Democratic Party’s paralysis in the face of our descent into authoritarianism.
Republicans have fully embraced this devolution from fake democracy to actual fascism - the natural progression of a hyper-capitalist state. Democrats, on the other hand, are in the unfortunate position of having to sell the public on the obviously artificial premise that capitalism and democracy can be reconciled and fused for the promotion of our collective wellbeing. Democrats believe we can protect the right to reproductive healthcare while commodifying access to all other forms of healthcare. Republicans take the much simpler and more politically digestible position of denying both of these rights, and stressing “personal responsibility” as the key to survival in an an increasingly capitalistic - and decreasingly democratic - society.
The only viable counter to this offensive is to assert that allhealthcare is a human right, and take capitalism out of the equation altogether. You’d have to take similar approaches on issues of climate, labor, and criminal justice, and then you might have a chance at pulling us back from the brink. But of course, that isn’t going to happen so long as the liberal class is at the helm. They’ll simply continue to lament the incorrigibility of a public who’s abandoned their neoliberal politics forever and for good reason.
So when you hear them bemoan the fall of democracy, understand there’s nothing democratic about the order they wish to restore. For this reason, our decline will only get steeper as their cries grow louder.
Photo: Ted Eytan (cc 2.0)