Before HRC lost the election, I didn’t think much about capitalism. I had long since resigned myself to our economic system. It’s an unfair one, but what can I do about it? It was the best one in human history, after all. So many people championed it as the reason that we have such first-world niceties as refrigerators, smartphones, and the like.
But something about Donald Trump landing the U.S. Presidential gig nauseated me enough to start looking for deeper answers. WHY had a game show host won the election, even though I had been told, that he absolutely, certainly would NOT WIN?
MSNBC reassured me in the summer of 2016 that Hilary was a shoe-in. Nate Silver, that superstar stats nerd, published such encouraging numbers for me to refer to whenever I’d get nervous. According to Silver, there was 90%+ chance of us having our first woman president. Plus, hadn’t Access Hollywood (of all things) come to our collective rescue with that “grab ’em by the pussy” tape?
But then…cut to election night, November 9th, 2016; America’s “Red Wedding.” That’s the name of the Game Thrones episode that had audiences anticipating an evening of celebration, only to have it end in mass bloodshed. The executive, judiciary and the representative branches all gone. ALL Republican. ALL RED.
Trump actually won. I was in shock (frankly , Melania and Trump looked similarly stunned as they ambled out to accept victory). I had planned on going to a Prop 64 victory party that night. Instead, I couldn’t move. It wasn’t the indicia, it was indignation.
I just couldn’t accept this outcome. HRC’s loss rattled me. I turned off NPR, MSNBC, HBO forever. I felt deep betrayal.
Until that night, I had never heard of “neoliberalism. I never know that there hasn’t been an economic recovery for the majority of Americans. After all, my life was great. I lived in West LA. My income was steady. I felt like the recession was over. Fancy restaurants were always packed, the streets of LA were full of exotic cars, and housing prices had been steadily rising for several years. The economy was great–right? And anyway, hadn’t the demographics shifted such that the poor and minorities were now out-numbering the rich and the white? Democratic victory for sure!
If that wasn’t enough, I figured Google alone (I had read that former Google CEO was tight with Hilary) could swing the election in her favor using algorithm magic (I didn’t care how.) Plus, Donald Trump was just so…gross.
Turns out, my “gross” was many voters’ “great” (again).
In my despair, I opted for DuckDuckGo to query “capitalism over” (I was mad at Google for not steering the election properly.) What inspired me to look up “capitalism” specifically? I don’t know. The Lord? The invisible slap of the marketplace? My lefty political science instructor from decades ago? Regardless, I was lead to Marxian economist Richard Wolff.
After listening to hours of Professor Richard Wolff’s talks on YouTube, I understood my surprise. The well-pedigreed professor, a graduate of Harvard, Stanford and Yale, breaks down current events into their economic components in a way that is easy to grasp and with historical context. His lectures saved me from buckling to the Russia-gate narrative. I don’t have to blame Susan Sarandon or shame voters for not picking “the lesser of two evils.”
Instead, I live in acceptance (or try to) of our economic and environmental devastation. It’s real, and I want to help fix it.
Democracy at Work meetings have introduced me to the fact that we can do better than capitalism. We can pick people over profit if we structure our economic system differently.
The past year and half of meetings have taught me a lot. I’ve learned about various forms of worker co-operatives as well as the economic infrastructure needed to support them. I’ve listened to speakers talk about local LA co-ops, the rise, and fall of the union movement, the power of public banking. I was introduced to Loomio, a software explicitly built to organize groups of people democratically.
I have also enjoyed hanging-out and just talking, in real-time to live humans about non-surface, important issues. Beats clicking “like” or “heart.”
I went from seeing Trump as the problem to the symptom; he’s what you get after decades of widening wealth inequality. Focusing on racism, sexism or Russia ignores the root of the issue; it’s a way to avoid talking honestly about capitalism the system that directly benefits a handful of people in charge of our media.
Here is where my head was on election night verses now:
ELECTION NIGHT: Donald Trump is such a tasteless, scam-artist, buffoon, joke, weirdo that there’s NO WAY he could win.
Turns out, I had underestimated the economic devastation of the last major economic crash in 2008. The recovery only happened for about the top 5% of Americans. American real-wages, when adjusted for inflation since 1970 have risen, 0.2%. Meanwhile, CEO compensation from 1978 to 2013 has risen 937%. People are in economic free-fall with no end in sight. They have had their jobs shipped overseas, their water poisoned, their health care cut and their schools underfunded.
Corporations treat people like expendable commodities. Why not try the orange clown? What’s to lose?
ELECTION NIGHT: We have a critical mass of minority and low-income voters. It’s an obvious win for Democrats.
White, working-class Obama voters didn’t go “with her.” Enough former Obama voters either stayed home or hedged their bets with Trump to leave the Dems in the dust. To me, this shows economic and social desperation and/or the desire to poke a stick in the eye of the establishment a la Brexit.
The working poor of all ethnicities are fed up. Vote. Don’t vote. What difference does it make?
It was black people, specifically black women, who were critical to Democrat Doug Jones eeking out a victory against Republican Roy Moore, an alleged child molester, in Alabama. And how did Senator Jones thank them? He voted to allow banks not to report the demographics of who they give-out loans to. And who do banks tend to prefer to not give loans to? Black people.
ELECTION NIGHT: The political pendulum swings from Republican to Democrat all the time. We can wait Trump out.
The pendulum has only been swinging further and further right the entire time. Clinton, though a Democrat, supported NAFTA which decimated jobs, exploded the prison population, and took benefits away from working moms. Clinton’s winning strategy was to call himself a Democrat and then act like a Republican. Obama droned weddings, deported millions and only supported Net Neutrality after an intense public outcry and with the blessing of Silicon Valley.
Clinton and Obama were pragmatists who wanted to win–but to what end? Capitalism is intensifying and spinning out of control.
ELECTION NIGHT: Democrats are better than Republicans for working people.
Democrats are as beholden to their wealthy donors as Republicans. Obama was a well-spoken, intelligent, humorous and dapper protector of the very wealthy and the status-quo.
Bankers were handled with kid gloves. Obama stayed a cool statesman as average Americans got tossed out of their homes and the banks re-capitalized. Candidate Obama was for the public option, President Obama fought for ObamaCare (which benefits insurance and pharmaceutical company profits above all else).
“But, but, but,” you say “Obama’s hands were tied. The Republicans had him out-numbered and would vote against him just because!”
It’s a fair observation and leads me to my final point. What we need is not regulation but system change.
It doesn’t matter if you blame big government or large corporations, under capitalism government and business are one. Capitalism works great for only a small handful of people, extracting wealth from the majority of us to enrich the few.
Obama could have taken a tougher stand. But if he had, the system would have gotten rid of him–and I think he knew it. Capitalism can’t help itself, its form is its function. The system elected Donald Trump. It gave him billions of dollars worth of free media coverage as the media companies are just following their marching orders to maximize profits. Why interview Bernie Sanders when you can make bank pointing your camera at candidate Trump’s empty podium?
As a good capitalist, you must do whatever it takes, regardless of the human or environmental cost to grab that surplus value for you and your
loved ones shareholders. If you do not have the guts to be this ruthless, too bad for you and your loser family.
Again. We can and must do better than capitalism (if we value human life or any life).
My anti-capitalist (or “it’s the economy stupid”) stance puts me at odds with many. Now there is a massive gulf between my “progressive” self and my “liberal” friends.
Worker co-ops are not the only answer, and they do not represent utopia. But they are a great start. Worker co-ops embody what we say we want in America: democracy, opportunity and freedom to both be your own boss and have a supportive community. We can not go on living these soulless, worker drone, zero-sum game lives. It’s literally killing us.