It’s time to state my case. Mr. Trump has made a great symbol for what I don’t stand for. I oppose his fascism, lies, corruption, and privilege for the rich. I oppose his abuse of power, abuse of the poor, cruelty, and disdain for facts and the press. But what, as they keep saying, am I for? With apologies to Bernie Sanders, who has been trying to pull the Democrats into his tent without severing relations with the Clinton center, I support Bernie and his policies but I’d like to state his case better.
I support a transition of our government to a social democracy along the lines of the current northern European democracies; a social democracy like those governing the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Those countries have a strong safety-net for the poor, universal health care, respect for human rights, vigorous democracies, respect for the environment, high tech businesses, high standards of living, education, and culture, and pride in their achievements. Why wouldn’t we want that? and, why then can’t we have it?
Well, in fact, we can have it – we have the intellect, and the energy, and, conceptually, a sufficiently democratic system. With a majority of the votes, we can bend the governmental structure to our will. And I am not suggesting anything that doesn’t work. The Scandinavian governments are models for the world. Their levels of health care, education, satisfaction of the citizenry, and respect for human rights and the environment all far exceed what we can demonstrate in the United States. They are not, for example, repressive Communist regimes, they respect life, liberty, and property. Nor are they totalitarian repressive regimes such as that found in Russia or China. No. They are governments that are run by and for the benefit of the people. Lincolnesque. Government of, by, and for the people.
What is stopping us? That’s a complicated question, the answer to which lies in the current domination of the American power structure by a corporate elite – an oligarchy that makes us rather more like Russia than Sweden. Our elite is well entrenched – they are fabulously wealthy, the tax and regulatory systems are controlled by them and skewed in their favor – and now through Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United, they can spend that wealth to retain their power. A social democracy threatens the corporate elite because it places the welfare of the people above the unrestricted right of the corporation to maximize profit. Thus, changing how we govern will require a fight to pry the fingers of the elite off the reins of power. That won’t be easy.
In the United States, because there is no effective limit on campaign spending, running successfully for office has become enormously expensive. That expense has guaranteed that only the elite will generally run for a major office, whether running as a Republican or Democrat. But the problem is compounded because presenting proposed policies to the public has traditionally required a sympathetic media. In the United States, media is controlled for the most part by either the old corporate establishment – say NBC or CBS – or by the right wing oligarchs such as Rupert Murdoch with Fox News. In the recent primary, social democrat Bernie Sanders was always swimming upstream, struggling to get his message out to a media that played up to the establishment figure, Hillary, or sucked up to the celebrity of Mr. Trump. Having said that, it is a fact that Sanders was enormously successful in terms of what might have been expected. And Trump actually won by appealing to the common core of voters who have felt themselves disenfranchised by the ruling elite.
What that says to me is that, notwithstanding the obstacles, the time is ripe for real change. Like Bernie, we are swimming up stream. But one thing that the massive rallies of the Women’s March showed on January 21 was that the new social media has created enormous possibilities for harnessing energy and for obtaining political power. The Marches were worldwide, organized largely on the internet, and without the money that the elite bring to bear. The elite can’t actually buy the votes. And we can appeal to voters if what we promise, and can fulfill, is what the people want. The challenge is to mobilize, get the message out, and demand that change.