Bloomberg has put himself and his fortune into the contest to rally his (ruling) classmates to the task of shoring up corporate control of the Party if Sanders seizes the top spot.
“The fate and fortunes of the oligarchy cannot be allowed to depend on Old Shaky Joe.”
U.S. oligarchs have begun to panic at the prospect that they will lose control of the other half of the American electoral duopoly. With the GOP in Donald Trump’s unreliable hands, the Democrats four years ago became the de facto ruling class party, and thus the favored brand of the national security state and most of the corporate media. Although there is not even one genuine anti-imperialist among congressional Democrats – certainly not Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren -- the party’s popular base is in revolt against a 40-year domestic austerity regime that offers nothing but ever-declining real wages, non-existent job security and a visibly decaying nation-scape. It has finally dawned on most Americans that they have been conscripted into a Global Race to the Bottom, and they want out of the downward spiral.
Sanders and Warren are running for president on austerity-busting issues supported by super-majorities of Democrats (and up to half of Republicans). In previous eras, the corporate rulers would embrace milder versions of reform in health care, wages, job security, educational costs, and environmental protection, in order to blunt demands for more transformative measures. But those days are over. The Lords of Capital are committed to the Race to the Bottom – locked in by the nature of capitalism-in-decline.
“It has finally dawned on most Americans that they have been conscripted into a Global Race to the Bottom.”
Despite their vice-grip on media and corporate donor control of the Democratic Party machinery, all the oligarchs’ eggs are in Joe Biden’s basket this election year. The numbers show that, were it not for all-consuming fears of Trump among older Black voters, who cling to the notion of Biden’s “electability,” Sanders and Warren would collectively sweep the primaries. The corporate consensus on austerity – and, therefore, the shape of capitalism, at home and globally -- is in dire peril. That’s why Michael Bloomberg has thrown his $55 billion hat into the ring – not because he has any prospect of winning the nomination (his presence in fact helps the anti-austerity candidates), but as the first stage in what Bloomberg is determined will be an epic battle to preserve the austerity regime and its hold on the Democratic Party machinery – the favored party of the ruling class as long as Trump runs the GOP.
Bloomberg is signaling to his fellow oligarchs, through his blaring commitment of up to a billion dollars, that they must become deadly serious about containing the economic populist wave among the Democrats, or face collapse of the austerity regime. The fate and fortunes of the oligarchy cannot be allowed to depend on Old Shaky Joe. Bloomberg has put himself and his fortune into the contest to rally his (ruling) classmates to the task of shoring up corporate control of the Party if Sanders, or some Sanders-Warren combination, seizes the top spots on the ticket.
“The corporate consensus on austerity – and, therefore, the shape of capitalism, at home and globally -- is in dire peril.”
Winning the nomination, or even the presidency, doesn’t automatically get you control of the party. But the Democratic Party is a political organism with an institutional life. Although probably only 20 House members, and less than a handful of senators, can at this moment be counted on to support Sanders’ full agenda, that cohort would immediately swell if Sanders wins the nomination in Milwaukee -- and will explode if he is elected president in November. Former New York mayor Bloomberg, the most electorally-attuned of the oligarchs, knows this. He understands that Democratic politicians will only remain fully dependable corporate servants if they are provided with an assured source of funds, through reliable structures. Bloomberg’s gambit is to enlist his ruling class fellows in an all-out push to further consolidate their dollar-dominance of the institutional Democratic Party – the only electoral vehicle left to preserve austerity capitalism with a racially “diverse” face. Although Bloomberg cannot expect to win a decisive number of delegates, he is conducting a “demonstration-effect” campaign to fully engage his uber-class fellows in the fight to maintain the corporate nature of the Democratic Party.
But Shaky Joe Biden remains the first line of corporate defense. If he does poorly in New Hampshire and Iowa, his aura of “electability” will be shattered. Black voters are not ideologically wedded to Biden. If they voted their economic agenda, Blacks would be overwhelmingly for Sanders. Only the existential threat of a Trump re-election keeps older Blacks in Biden’s corner. That will change in a flash if Biden does not win strong approval from whites in the first two contests – the corporate nightmare that terrifies and energizes Bloomberg. Biden’s long career as a gladiator for austerity has now moved to center stage, as he defends his role in Barack Obama’s attempt at an across-the-board slash in entitlements “Grand Bargain” with the Republicans, a betrayal of the Democratic base that ended -- blessedly -- in gridlock at the end of Obama’s first term. Sanders will have to be careful in his condemnation of Biden, to avoid indicting The First Black President.
“Biden’s long career as a gladiator for austerity has now moved to center stage.”
The best outcome in 2020 would be a break-up of the Democratic Party, creating space for a genuine political debate in the belly of the imperial beast. It now appears that such a rupture is at least as likely to come from the Right, from Bloomberg-organized billionaires, as from the Left, through a mass defection by Sanders supporters infuriated by yet another round of the Party’s dirty tricks. I believe Bloomberg is preparing to launch a kind of “Third Way” party structure to shore up corporate Democrats, and isolate and deny endorsement to Sanders should the Vermont senator win the nomination – leaving Sanders with only the rump of a party behind him.
If that happens, we at Black Agenda Report will celebrate the end of duopoly, and a new scenario of struggle.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].