Cartoon of broken down school bus a damaged Park sign and a public school in disrepair

The "[l]ongest bull run in the history of the stock market, congratulations America!" tweeted President Donald J. Trumpone day in August. But there are two Americas, and only one of them owns any stocks at all; and the richest 10% own 84%of all stocks owned by Americans. What is a stock anyway? A stock is a claim on a company's profits and assets, both of which are products of workers employed by the company. The America of the owning class lives off the labor of the other America and the rest of the world. On another day in August, President Trump tweeted: "For all of you that have made a fortune in the markets, or seen your 401k's rise beyond your wildest expectations, more good news is coming!" You know to which America the president intends to bring "more good news."

Good news for the class who own America is that the Great Financial Crisis, caused by their own greed, has given them an opportunity to further weaken the working class, by degrading our jobs, cutting our incomes, healthcare, pensions, evicting us from our homes. Our losses in incomes, healthcare, pensions are their gains, i.e. bigger profit margins raising the value of their stocks. The homes we have lost to foreclosure are now their investment properties. Added to all that is "more good news," tax cuts enabling corporations to spend $1 trillion on stock buybacks, courtesy of the Capitalist in Chief.

What better news for his fellow capitalists is the president planning to bring? Perhaps a new war or two enriching the military-industrial complex? Against Iran or Venezuela?

Look Over There!

How did we get here? "Whenever people said how come you rich people are getting richer while the rest of us are losing our houses, our jobs, our schools, the rich people pointed at someone else and said, 'Look over there!'" That's how a popular animation created by Fred Glass and Mike Konopacki for the California Federation of Teachers explains the ruling-class motive for scapegoating, for instance blaming teachers for failing public schools. "Look Over There!" may very well be another name for the sole modus operandi of the Trump presidency. His list of scapegoats is long and varied, but the most frequently sacrificed are those branded as "foreign."

Trump and his ilk, the so-called right-wing "populists," live by exploiting the white middle strata's fear of falling, channeling it into xenophobia, prompting them to blame Muslims and Mexicans, China and Russia, anybody but their own American bosses for their declining living standards.

"Democratic Socialists" vs. "CIA Democrats"

This election cycle, however, has seen another brand of populists rising: left-wing populists, many of them identifying themselves as "democratic socialists," advocating for Medicare for All, free college tuition, rent control, and the "abolition of ICE" among other causes.

Caught off guard by surprisingly popular "democratic socialist" challenges to the neoliberal incumbents, some of which have been spectacularly successful like the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortezcampaign, what are the Democratic Party establishment to do? Apparently one of their responses is to promote the campaigns of former intelligence professionals. On September 8, 2018, NBC belatedly reported on "an unusually large number of former intelligence officers and operatives … campaigning for office as Democrats in this fall's midterm elections." Before it, Patrick Martin of had broken the story in March: "Candidates from a military-intelligence background" made up "the largest single occupational group running in the Democratic primaries." Martin identified as many as "57 candidates for the Democratic nomination in 44 congressional districtswho boast as their major credential their years of service in intelligence, in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, at the State Department, or some combination of all three."

Can the left-wing populist candidates eventually capture the leadership of the Democratic Party and steer it to the left, despite the critical mass of "CIA Democrats"? Not if they are left to their own devices. Bruce A. Dixon, the managing director of the Black Agenda Report, noted that "21 out of 31" progressive Democratic candidates endorsed by Justice Democrats, Brand New Congress, or Our Revolution have "absolutely NOTHING to say … about war or peace, about the military budget which consumes roughly a trillion dollars a year."

Some on the left may say, "Why not give them the benefit of the doubt?" Our reply: Why not give them the benefit of criticism? More importantly, why not give ourselves the benefit of political independence? After all, winning elections is a means, not an end. As Eugene Debssaid in Canton, Ohio, "You will never vote the Socialist republic into existence. . . . United and acting together for the common good your power is invincible."

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