What does it mean when The Wall Street Journal, the popular mouthpiece for the right wing of the US ruling class, joins The New York Times (its left-wing counterpart) in vicious attacks on the Republican Presidential nominee?
WSJ staff writer Andy Pasztor’s Trump story was featured on the Friday, September 2 edition front page and continued by occupying the entire page facing the paper’s opinion section. Provocatively headlined Donald Trump and the Mob, the article sought to tie Trump, the developer, to Mafia linked contractors, with a sidebar recounting Trump’s employment of the sleazy, corrupt lawyer, Roy Cohn.
It is hardly unusual for developers associated with both parties to engage questionable contractors, a category of employment notorious for insider connections, corrupt deals, and, yes, unsavory characters. Thus, the WSJ piece stands out because it highlights behavior that usually gets a pass by the paper, especially for Republicans. The thin charges, largely based solely on association, stand out for their failure to make Trump seem any different from innumerable businessmen/politicians who slither through election cycles with barely a whisper from the mainstream media.
As for the employment of the late Roy Cohn-- a truly despicable creature-- it never bothered the conscience of the WSJ when he worked for Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, or a host of equally heralded right-wing politicians. So, why the outrage now with Trump?
Is there any doubt that when The Wall Street Journal coalesces with The New York Times and The Washington Post to demonize a candidate, the resulting united front speaks to more than a mere coincidence of opinion? Does even the most jaded observer think that unanimity among representatives of all factions of US elites-- the most powerful forces in US affairs-- does not signal a wholesale rejection of Trump? A repudiation of any charge that he currently represents ruling class interests?
Supporters of Hillary Clinton’s campaign refuse to address this fact. They refuse to acknowledge that she, rather than Trump, enjoys the broad and deep support of nearly the entire class composed of the most rich and powerful. They refuse to confront the meaning of a campaign that paradoxically aligns the mouthpieces and moneybags of US elites solidly behind the Democratic Party candidate. Marxists would call it a “contradiction” and search for its meanings. “Left-wing” apologists for the Clinton candidacy simply ignore it.
The peculiar choices offered voters are lost in the clamor of personal attack, the clash of shallow issues, and the orgy of fund-raising. Barring any new, dramatic, and sleazy revelations, debate stumbles, or blunders, Hillary Clinton will likely win the election in November. After the celebration of Trump’s defeat, liberals and organized labor will wake up to the reality that they have not moved their agenda one step. At best, they will avoid losing what they believe Trump threatens. That may satisfy many. But for those hoping to change the US for the better, this awakening should be sobering. Apart from permanent war, growing inequality, deteriorating living standards, intensifying racism, what will this election bring the next generation? What can reformers build upon?
Even more alarming, this election stands as the low point of an unrelenting process, a process of both a diminishing of the differences between the two parties and a continual rightward drift of the political center. Since late in the Carter administration, the Democratic Party leadership has sought to occupy the political space only minimally to the left of the Republicans. Recognizing this, corporate Republicans have steered their agenda rightward, seeing an opportunity to dismantle any and all remnants of the New Deal and the War on Poverty. If this election cycle does deviate in any way from this trend, it is in the promise to continue the process primarily through the agenda of Clinton rather than the vague and shifting positions of Trump. That is, of course, the basis for ruling class support for Clinton.
We have witnessed this process take us through a cast of worsening, ever more outrageous characters: a petty Cold-War demagogue, a self-righteous moralist, a theatrical con artist, a dishonest backslapper, a crusading alcoholic, and the two integrity and candor challenged candidates belched up in this election cycle.
Those who will celebrate the Clinton victory (like those who were ecstatic over Obama’s victory) will bear responsibility for the continued course of this process, the process of the corruption and trivialization of two-party politics.
The electoral fear-mongering grows thin, as the lesser-of-two-evils stance enables more and more evil. Scapegoating those who are trying to find a way out of the two-party trap remains the sport of those too cynical or lazy to look at options, too complacent to recognize the futility of trying to drag a corporate-owned Democratic Party toward popular change. Decades of self-righteous prattle warning of ultra-right dangers has not slowed the rightward drift of US politics one iota, whether Democrats win or not.
Surely if Marxists have anything to contribute to understanding bourgeois politics, it is to pull the curtain back and expose how it functions. What we see is not a pretty sight.