Public Comment

Commentary: The New Political Divide

By John F. Davies
Friday February 01, 2008

A great change is now happening, one that’s only now beginning to bubble up in the national consciousness, and this change is shaking our established institutions to their very roots. Yet this fact is barely registering among the so-called mainstream media, or for that matter, even the progressive one. Put simply, the old political definitions of left and right, liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican, are eroding away. They are indeed becoming irrelevant as the new concerns of this new Century trump the politics of the past. It’s now no longer the right against the left, but rather: “Wall Street against Main Street.” 

The roots of this go back about 35 years. What occurred was, as one writer put it, a “revolt of the haves.” The American moneyed interests were quite terrified by the specter of an aroused and united American people. It’s also apparent from the literature of the time that both Democrat and Republican leaders were voicing the same concerns. One study from a Democratic-sponsored think tank even proclaimed that the public had become “ungovernable” and had to be returned back to their normal state of apathy. Apparently having had enough of an activist public interfering with their plans, the powers that be decided to do something about it. Using all legal and institutional means at their disposal, the powerful stymied all further attempts at real reform. 

For many, the experience of the 1960s and ’70s revealed the hidden hands of power that actually rule this republic of ours. To the generation that rebelled, they realized that the organs of national security would use all means necessary to crush any hint of real change in this country. To working people, they saw the power of their earnings erode, and once secure jobs were now being sent overseas. Independent businesses began to be overwhelmed by newly emerging corporate monopolies. To those who served and bled in Vietnam, they saw the privileged avoid the ordeal that they themselves suffered. And the poor, who were just getting by, became completely destitute. These were the beginnings of the economic disenfranchisement that is now sweeping America by storm. For the last three decades the message from those above was “consume, spend, and get with the program” or starve. And the public did indeed spend themselves into a frenzy of debt. Unfortunately, Economics 101 says that an economy based on debt creation is ultimately unsustainable. We Americans have all been using a giant credit card to finance what is so arrogantly called our “Lifestyle,” and now the bills are coming due. 

With the cold wind of recession starting to blow in our faces, we the people find that neither established political party offers any real solutions to our present crises. And there’s a reason for this, it’s because both parties are in the thrall of the politically connected rich. As the chair of the corporate sponsored Democratic Leadership Council recently stated, “No Democrat can win without our support.” And, as in the cases of Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul, any candidate who directly challenges the corporate establishment will be ignored, trivialized, and even forced out of debates by the leadership of their parties. Simply put, these corporate masters will not tolerate any challenges to their authority, and to deny this hard fact is to deny the realities of power in this country.  

In my conversations with younger people, their greatest gripe is that all they hear from progressive leaders is just more warmed over ’60s rhetoric. What they say today may have been relevant in 1968, but we now find ourselves facing a far different world than we had forty years ago. One now finds that the travails of the liberal Democrat are also those of the conservative Republican. These mutual concerns are starting to bring together groups that years ago would never have spoken to one other. For instance, abuses of eminent domain and redevelopment have brought together alliances of Greens and Libertarian Republicans. Climate Change issues unite many environmentalists with evangelical Christians. The so-called “Patriot Act” and other privacy-related matters have allied lifetime NRA members with established supporters of the ACLU. Common ground is apparently being found, yet we don’t hear very much about it. Why is this? I suspect that these new alliances are upsetting the agendas of those who would still have us living in the past. Perhaps they see a potential groundswell as something that could make them irrelevant. I will even guess that maybe this could be an even greater threat to the designs of the moneyed few than what there was in the ’60s. Perhaps this maelstrom that we see around us will finally make us aware that our salvation is not with the major parties, but rather with ourselves. I will add here that whomever wins this coming November, they will be facing a new and ever-increasing popular movement that transcends any label. I for one, am looking forward to it. 


John F. Davies is a Berkeley resident.