“Progressives” vs. Populists
The “progressive” label is affixed to public figures just as dishonestly as “liberal” is. Truly progressive thinking is obviously a good thing. But as used by the establishment, the label instead indicates the kind of narrow-minded authoritarianism most modern “liberals” are renowned for.
The easiest way to distinguish a true progressive or a true liberal from a fake one is to study their views on war and peace. The court historians tell us that Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt were the ultimate “good guys,” deeply concerned for their fellow human beings and only driven to war by despicable foes.
Study the actual historical record, not the widely publicized propaganda pieces written by well-publicized establishment historians. Wilson obeyed his masters and steered America into a disastrous foreign conflict that changed the world forever, in a very bad way. As a true progressive, General Smedley Butler described it, “war is a racket.” Butler detailed the incredible fortunes that were made just from “the war to end all wars.”
Franklin Roosevelt did everything in his power behind the scenes to move America into Europe’s new conflict, and succeeded when Japan launched a “sneak” attack on Pearl Harbor. But anyone who even suggests that FDR had prior knowledge of the attack risks the kind of scorn the mainstream media and court historians direct to those who question the divinity of the establishment’s secular saint, “Honest” Abe Lincoln.
Looking at establishment “progressives” today, the one thing that distinguishes them from actual progressives or populists is their persistent support for any and every war the United States involves itself in. Virtually any Democratic party nominee since LBJ fits this profile perfectly. They bought into the Gulf “war,” and every subsequent excursion into the middle east. Even more laughably, they support this undefinable “war on terror,” and the restrictions of civil liberties that go along with it.
Genuine populists like William Jennings Bryan, Robert LaFollette and Huey Long are generally ignored by the court historians. If Bryan is mentioned, it’s to inaccurately ridicule him as a Bible-thumping clown who made a fool of himself at the Scopes trial. He isn’t associated with “peace,” despite resigning in protest from Wilson’s cabinet over American involvement in WWI. Long, of course, is labeled a “demagogue” and accused of corruption, based exclusively on second-hand accounts of a “deduct box.”
It is hard for those who are not fully awake to understand the differences between a Howard Dean and a Dennis Kucinich, for instance. It’s the same kind of difference that existed in the 1968 campaign, regarding a Hubert Humphrey and a Robert F. Kennedy. The Democratic Party has always stayed away from any true populist presidential candidates. They had a great populist in Congress, James Trafficant, and railroaded him into prison on truly absurd criminal charges.
Donald Trump is not my idea of a populist. But he has taken stances on vital issues that border on the subversive, in the eyes of our corrupt establishment. His boldest move, and one of the boldest nominations any president has made in modern times, was tapping Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. to head a commission studying the impact of vaccines. This was a revolutionary middle finger to the state; not only has RFK, Jr. been vocal about the connection between vaccines and autism, he is a Kennedy. He’s the son of JFK’s brother, Attorney General and right-hand man. The establishment doesn’t want him near any lever of power.
Establishment “progressives” like FDR, Harry Truman, LBJ, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama delivered speeches about alleviating poverty. Their rhetoric has never come close to matching their record. Huey Long (an entire chapter will be devoted to the Kingfish in my upcoming book Survival of the Richest) actually made the lives of the poor in Louisiana demonstrably better. If Americans had elected RFK in 1968, or Cynthia McKinney or Dennis Kucinich in more recent years, they would almost certainly have taken real, direct action against poverty.
“Liberal” Bill Clinton’s push for mandatory sentencing and “three strikes you’re out” policies didn’t help the poor. On the contrary, it resulted in far more poor people doing to prison, for much longer sentences, than ever before. “Liberal” Barack Obama’s “affordable” health care act provided free health care to no one, except perhaps for illegal immigrants, which is probably a fitting epitaph for his administration. Real populists recognize that our healthcare system is beyond repair in its present state, and advocate for a single-payer system. They certainly wouldn’t support Obamacare’s mandate that forces everyone to purchase insurance or face exorbitant penalties.
The establishment Left, like the establishment Right, supports every horrific measure proposed, from NAFTA to TPP to corporate welfare, which creates the sinful disparity of wealth we see in America, and around the world today. It’s impossible to effectively solve this problem without focusing on where all the money is going, which I do in Survival of the Richest. Just during the course of writing that book, the already incomprehensible statistic that the 80 richest individuals in the world have more wealth than half of the world’s population, fell further to 62 individuals.
Unless America wants to become a card-carrying member of the Third World brigade, we absolutely have to narrow the unprecedented gap between the haves and the have nots. We not only have to deal with outsourcing, immigration and foreign visa workers; mass automation will eliminate an untold number of jobs as well. Increasingly, I am thinking that some kind of guaranteed income is the only viable solution here, but I don’t expect that idea to fly in this country, until we experience a total collapse and are fighting in the streets over food.
Where is any “progressive” leader in America, calling for a guaranteed annual income? It’s doubtful our always inept leaders have any idea of how to deal with the birth of automation, much as they never dealt intelligently with immigration, trade, healthcare, foreign policy, or any other critical issue. Their approach to the inevitable Social Security crisis is to keep raising the retirement age, which perfectly reflects the short-sided perspective that has all but destroyed this nation.
We need a new generation of populists like Huey Long and William Jennings Bryan. There is no real alternative when the establishment “left” is just as hawkish on war and disinterested in civil liberties as the establishment “right.” This is again why Donald Trump has incurred the wrath of the entire establishment. He isn’t a Reagan opposing “liberalism.” He has ranted specifically against “globalism.” Virtually every major political figure of the past fifty years has been a die-hard globalist. This is why they agreed not to disagree on foreign policy, to make it “bipartisan.” In other words, to never speak out against the continuous wars.
Huey Long’s “Share the Wealth” society attracted millions of members. As I hope to show in my book, he was assassinated by powerful forces because of the tremendous threat he represented. Despite all the talk about eradicating poverty in the decades that followed, including LBJ’s ridiculous “war” on it, which was just as unsuccessful as Reagan’s “war” on drugs, not a single politician ever thought to pick up Huey Long’s mantle, and demand redistribution of the wealth. Not even a true demagogue, exploiting the poor for his own purposes, appeared on the scene. Even Long’s own son, Russell, never made it an issue in all his years in the U.S. Senate.
Our corrupt establishment needs a substantial underclass as much as it needs perpetual war, in order to maintain its illegitimate power. Even a few populist stances, such as Trump has taken, threaten this criminal state to its core. Take away the massive illegal immigration and awful trade deals, and a crucial plank of globalism is destroyed. Merely rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure is Populism 101, because it represents an expenditure that directly benefits all the people, not just the plutocratic elite.
Establishment “progressives” appear to define “progress” as a draconian Banana Republic-type of world, where austerity and authoritarianism reign together. Huey Long spoke of sharing the blessings with everyone, while “progressives” today advise “sacrifice” and dramatically lowered expectations and standards of living. The “new normal” is an ever widening disparity in wealth, no pay raises, benefits or retirement for the great mass of workers, and the death of both empathy and idealism.
John F. Kennedy’s idealistic speeches would be appreciated by very few in our cynical modern world. Establishment “progressives” appear to be restricting their idealism to increasing the number of transgender bathrooms. No one talks of the simple solution Huey Long advocated; to take from those who have too much and give to those who have too little. The legend of Robin Hood resounded with the public for a good reason; most people recognized that he was a hero, not a villain.
No honest system permits such a concentration of wealth as we see today. Survival of the Richest will examine this dishonest system in depth. It is indeed rigged against the common people, and in favor of the wealthy. No one honestly “earns” billions. As the great socialist Eugene Debs put it a century ago: “I am opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while millions of men and women who work all the days of their lives secure barely enough for a wretched existence.”
To paraphrase what was once said about slavery; if this kind of distribution of wealth isn’t wrong, then nothing is wrong. If only we had some true progressives, some high profile populists, to point the obvious out to the people.