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Issue #1754      October 26, 2016

Taking Issue – Rob Gowland

A shock and a sorry selection

I’m sorry, but I rather think I’m in shock: Tony Abbott said something that I support. Yes I know – Tony Abbott of all people. It just goes to show that even the most unlikely people can be obliged by circumstances to take up progressive positions.

Elizabeth Warren injected some reality, commenting that “the game is rigged. It is rigged for the Donald Trumps and the billionaires of the world.”

In Abbott’s case his progressive move is to come out strongly against the reactionary clique of gun-nuts in the Coalition (mainly Nationals as one would expect but supported by a few Libs as well) who want to lift the ban on seven-shot lever-action rapid-fire shot guns. There is no question that people on rural properties have need from time to time of a gun or of someone with a gun. In my valley, if someone has an injured sheep or goat that needs to be put down promptly, a phone call to a particular neighbour will produce him and his rifle to take care of the matter. (With bigger animals, like a horse, you call the vet of course.)

There is no situation on a rural property, however, that calls for automatic, rapid-fire weaponry. The desire for that kind of firepower is usually confined to the macho clowns in the Shooters and Fishers Party, people who define their masculinity by their weapons. Frankly, the idea that people in a country like Australia need to own their own assault rifle or machine gun is simply crazy.

So I had to agree with Tony Abbott when he informed the media that the call to lift the ban was “crackers”. Surely anyone who thought about the matter would agree? It’s still a strange feeling, to realise that I could have something – anything – in common with a person like Abbott. In fact it serves to remind us that human beings are complex creatures and oversimplifying them can lead you into error.

Tony probably doesn’t boil puppies either.

Meanwhile, in the land of the gun, the television ratings event that is the US Presidential election continues on its merry way. Voting is not compulsory and, given the sorry selection of candidates Americans have been offered over the last 50 years it is not surprising that so many Americans don’t bother to vote (and a surprising number aren’t allowed to). In fact, in recent decades Presidents have been elected when the total number of those who voted amounted to little more than a quarter of the people eligible to do so! In those conditions the will of the people counts for very little. Look at the “stolen election” that saw George W Bush elevated to the Oval Office.

If the possibility of Donald Trump – an arrogantly fascist, racist and misogynist real estate mogul and billionaire – winning in November worries us in Australia, think how democratically-minded people in the USA must feel. The focus of their efforts to stop Trump and at the same time to move America forward onto a progressive path is the grouping around Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Sanders is the Independent Senator for Vermont while Warren is a Democrat from Massachusetts. They are both social democrats but in the American context, the movement they are leading is being characterised as a “political revolution”. Sanders stood against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party nomination for President, and to her surprise (and no doubt horror) won the support of millions of voters.

Although Hillary eventually won the nomination, to secure Bernie’s subsequent endorsement she had to agree to a platform of reforms that Sanders and Warren declare is now “the most progressive party platform in the history of the United States of America.” Given Hillary’s staunch support for (and by) big business interests, that must surely rankle.

Sanders and Warren’s immediate goal, of course, is to ensure the defeat of Trump who is clearly recognised as the most dangerous present threat to civil liberties in America and to peace everywhere. At a rally for Trump’s rival Hillary Clinton in Colorado, Sanders warned voters: “If we do not get our act together, this country is going to slide into oligarchy, where a handful of billionaires will control the economic and political life of this nation.” Some of us would think they already did, but apparently that is not entirely the case – not yet, at any rate.

Trump, aware that his campaign – which at one stage appeared almost unstoppable – has since become mired in controversy, has begun preparing the ground for his possible defeat, claiming for a while that he wouldn’t accept a Clinton victory because that would mean that the democratic process was “rigged” against him. He also called the presidential election “one big fix” and “one big, ugly lie.” These attempts to delegitimise the election outcome are exactly what one would expect from a fascist demagogue preparing his troops to reject the outcome and possibly take putsch-like action instead.

Former New York City mayor and Trump supporter Rudy Giuliani joined his leader in his efforts to delegitimise the election result if it were to prove unfavourable to Trump. He told CNN: “I’m sorry, dead people generally vote for Democrats rather than Republicans. You want me to [say] that I think the election in Philadelphia and Chicago is going to be fair? I would have to be a moron to say that.”

Indeed, one Trump supporter, speaking of Hillary Clinton, told the Boston Globe: “If she’s in office, I hope we can start a coup. She should be in prison or shot. That’s how I feel about it. We’re going to have a revolution and take them out of office if that’s what it takes. There’s going to be a lot of bloodshed. But that’s what it’s going to take ... I would do whatever I can for my country.”

Clearly a true patriot. I like the way that what would obviously be a fascist coup is referred to as a “revolution”.

Elizabeth Warren injected some reality, commenting that “the game is rigged. It is rigged for the Donald Trumps and the billionaires of the world.” The journal Politico commented that Trump “is laying the groundwork to lose on November 8, refuse to concede the election, and teeter the country into an unprecedented crisis of faith in government.”

However, the widespread negative reaction to Trump’s attempts to delegitimise the election result caused him to do another backflip and announce that he would accept the result, win or lose.

Nevertheless, his efforts to delegitimise his expected defeat have had some success. A Politico/Morning Consult poll taken October 13-15 showed that a full 81 percent of Trump supporters believe that the 2016 election could be “stolen” from Trump as a result of widespread voter fraud.

This is cause for concern, Kim Lane Scheppele, an election law expert and professor at Princeton, told NBC News. “The problem is his supporters believe this, and if he loses the election and he’s already teed up this argument it could have really massive, serious effects,” she said.

And the New York Times thinks there are more games afoot, designed to facilitate moving America further to the Right. “After Trump loses”, wrote the prestigious paper, “don’t be surprised to see [campaign CEO Stephen] Bannon join forces with Trump and Roger Ailes (the former Fox News guru deposed for engaging in sexual harassment of employees who recently jumped aboard Trump’s sinking ship) to create a new right-wing media conglomerate – Trump TV or Trump Media – linking Breitbart News to a new cable network that will almost make Fox News look tame and responsible.

“Together, Trump, Ailes, and Bannon would run their media empire to advance their common goals: gaining political influence, massaging their massive egos, moving the Republican Party further to the right, attacking Democrats and liberal ideas, and promoting a neo-fascist agenda combining xenophobia, racism, sexism, government-bashing, and anti-immigrant nativism.”

Now there’s a scary prospect!

Warren and Sanders have a hard job on their hands: to convince US progressives, who have been disappointed so many times in the past by the machinations of the two main US parties, that a vote for Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is still a vote for “political revolution.”

Clearly, simply defeating Trump will not be sufficient for that. Referring to the phenomenal support Sanders gained during the primaries campaign, Warren told the Colorado rally “America and the Democratic Party [now] know the power and energy of the progressive movement.”

Both Sanders and Warren agreed however that the reforms they have been able to push into the Democratic Party platform will require defending. Sanders said that if voters think that Wall Street, as well as the insurance, fossil fuel, and pharmaceutical industries, are going to “go peacefully into the night, you are mistaken”.

“It goes without saying,” he said, “that all of us together have got to do everything we can to elect Hillary Clinton president. But what is equally important is that on November 9, the day after Hillary is elected president, we continue our efforts because we know [that] what real change is about, what real politics is about, is transforming this country.”

He laid out a “two-fold struggle” for progressive voters. First, he said, Clinton needs to win by “landslide proportions so there is no doubt in anybody’s mind that this country is going to reject the sexism, the racism, the xenophobia of the Trump campaign.”

Secondly, Sanders said that we must “bring millions of people together to create a political revolution and to create a government ... that works for all of us, not just the one percent.”

Bernie Sanders’ “revolution” is not the solution to America’s problems, but it is a sign of the developing consciousness of the American people that radical change is urgently needed in their own country.

Next article – Australia opposed to nuke weapons ban

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