Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator John Barrasso speak to reporters on Capitol Hill after bipartisan Senate opposition blocked swift confirmation for Debo Adegbile to head the Justice Department's civil rights division. Wednesday, March 5, 2014. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
On Wednesday, the US Senate voted 47-52 not to confirm Debo Adegbile to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. Every Republican senator and seven Democrats voted against Adegbile’s nomination.
Adegbile, the former director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, was superbly qualified for the position. He was endorsed by the American Bar Association and high-profile lawyers on both sides of the aisle and presciently defended the Voting Rights Act before the Supreme Court last year. He would’ve made an excellent head of the Civil Rights Division. MORE
Seventy years ago, on January 11, 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt delivered his 11th Annual Message on the State of the Union. The United States was at war. But the president spoke not only of the struggle and of what Americans had to do to hasten victory over the Axis Powers. He also spoke of what Americans needed to do to win the peace to come. Reaffirming his administration’s commitment to the vision he had articulated in his 1941 Annual Message – the vision of the Four Freedoms: Freedom of speech, Freedom of worship, Freedom from want, Freedom from fear – Roosevelt now called for an Economic Bill of Rights for all Americans.
As President Obama contemplates his second-term legacy, and with midterm elections on the near horizon, he would do well to attend to FDR’s 1944 message. Our own challenges are not those of 1944. But in the wake of the tragedies, crises, painful obstructions and compromises of the past 15 years and in the face of continuing right-wing and corporate class war against working people, they are no less daunting – and we are no less eager to start addressing them.
Our own challenges are not those of 1944. But in the wake of the tragedies, crises, painful obstructions and compromises of the past 15 years and in the face of continuing right-wing and corporate class war against working people, they are no less daunting – and we are no less eager to start addressing them.
By January 1944, the United States and its allies had turned the tide of war. The Normandy invasion was still months away, but Allied forces were clearly advancing both east and west. And yet Americans were anxious – anxious not only about the lives of their loved ones in uniform and how long it might take to defeat Germany and Japan, but also about what might actually follow the victory. Many worried that the end of the war effort would see the return of severe economic difficulties and high unemployment, if not a new depression.
Roosevelt was well aware of those anxieties. But he knew what Americans could accomplish and he intended to speak to them as he had in 1933 – when he invited them to beat the Great Depression taking up the labors and struggles of recovery, reconstruction and reform known as the New Deal — and again in 1941, when he mobilized them to go “All Out!” against fascism and imperialism in the name of the Four Freedoms. Now as before he would not ask them to lay aside or suspend their democratic ideals and hard-won achievements for the duration, but urge them to rescue the nation from destruction and tyranny by not only fighting and defeating their enemies, but also making America freer, more equal and more democratic in the very process of doing so.
Roosevelt also knew full well that Congress would never endorse an economic bill of rights. Dominated since 1938 by a conservative coalition of Republicans and southern Democrats, Congress had been doing everything it could to terminate the New Deal, limit the rights of workers and minorities and block new liberal initiatives. And yet he had good reason to believe that most of his fellow citizens would embrace the idea. Polls showed that the vast majority of Americans saw the war in terms of the Four Freedoms and understood the battles of not just the past three years, but the past 12 years, in terms of enhancing American democratic life. In fact, 94 percent of them endorsed old-age pensions; 84 percent, job insurance; 83 percent, national health insurance; 79 percent, aid for students; and 73 percent, work relief. Pollster Jerome Bruner would observe: “If a ‘plebiscite’ on Social Security were to be conducted tomorrow, America would make the plans of our Social Security prophets look niggardly. We want the whole works.”
After outlining a set of policies to speed up the war effort, the president looked ahead: “It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known.” And in favor of that he proposed the adoption of a Second Bill of Rights.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt broadcasts his annual message to Congress on January 11, 1944 in Washington, DC. (AP Photo)
“This Republic,” he said, “had its beginning and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights… They were our rights to life and liberty. As our Nation has grown in size and stature, however – as our industrial economy expanded – these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.” But, he continued: “We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. ‘Necessitous men are not free men.’” And evoking Jefferson, the Founders and Lincoln, he contended that “In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident” and “We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race or creed.” This Second Bill of Rights included:
The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;
The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
The right of every family to a decent home;
The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment;
The right to a good education.
In sum, he stated: “All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.”
Roosevelt did not leave it there, however. Distinguishing “clear-thinking businessmen” from the rest, he alerted his fellow citizens to “the grave dangers of rightist reaction.” And he then put Congress itself on the spot: “I ask Congress to explore the means for implementing this economic bill of rights – for it is definitely the responsibility of Congress to do so.” Finally, linking the question of addressing the needs of the war veterans to that of enacting the new bill of rights in a universal program of economic and social security, he declared: “Our fighting men abroad – and their families at home – expect such a program and have the right to insist upon it.”
The labor movement quickly mobilized around the president’s proposal. Liberal politicians, editors, academics and theologians enthusiastically joined in a newly created National Citizens Political Action Committee to bolster labor’s efforts. Civil rights organizations firmly embraced the promise they heard in FDR’s words. And Americans energetically rallied as workers, consumers and citizens.
The labor movement quickly mobilized around President Roosevelt’s proposal. Liberal politicians, editors, academics and theologians enthusiastically joined in a newly created National Citizens Political Action Committee to bolster labor’s efforts.
Roosevelt himself did not retreat in the autumn presidential campaign. He not only reiterated his call for a new bill of rights. He also insisted that the “right to vote must be open to our citizens irrespective of race, color or creed – without tax or artificial restriction of any kind.” And that November, he won re-election to a fourth term with 53.5 percent of the vote and the Democratic Party, though it lost a seat in the Senate, gained 20 in the House.
Tragically, FDR was right about the dangers of rightist reaction. Americans’ hopes and aspirations were stymied by aggressive and well-funded conservative and corporate campaigns. Still, compelled by popular pressure, Congress did enact a “GI Bill of Rights,” an historic initiative that enabled 12,000,000 veterans – nearly 1 in 10 Americans – to radically transform themselves and their country for the better. And in years to come their generation would not only make America richer and stronger, but would act anew to progressively realize the vision that Roosevelt had projected.
We need to redeem that vision. President Obama has rightly warned that inequality seriously threatens America’s promise. He may not be able to enact any new grand initiatives before he leaves office. But remembering Franklin Roosevelt’s 1944 Message and speaking with confidence in and to his fellow citizens, he may not only get Americans to vote Democratic in November and set the agenda for 2016. He may also encourage us to go “All Out!” in the fight to renew America’s grand experiment in democracy. That would be a great second-term legacy.
Geopolitically speaking, when it comes to war and the imperial principle, we may be in uncharted territory. Take a look around and you’ll see a world at the boiling point. From Ukraine to Syria, South Sudan to Thailand, Libya to Bosnia, Turkey to Venezuela, citizen protest (left and right) is sparking not just disorganization, but what looks like, to coin a word, de-organization at a global level. Increasingly, the unitary status of states, large and small, old and new, is being called into question. Civil war, violence and internecine struggles of various sorts are visibly on the rise. In many cases, outside countries are involved and yet in each instance state power seems to be draining away to no other state’s gain. So here’s one question: Where exactly is power located on this planet of ours right now?
There is, of course, a single waning superpower that has in this new century sent its military into action globally, aggressively, repeatedly — and disastrously. And yet these actions have failed to reinforce the imperial system of organizing and garrisoning the planet that it put in place at the end of World War II; nor has it proven capable of organizing a new global system for a new century. In fact, everywhere it’s touched militarily, local and regional chaos have followed.
In the meantime, its own political system has grown gargantuan and unwieldy, its electoral process has been overwhelmed by vast flows of money from the wealthy one percent and its governing system is visibly troubled, if not dysfunctional. Its rich are ever richer, its poor ever poorer and its middle class in decline. Its military, the largest by many multiples on the planet, is nonetheless beginning to cut back. Around the world, allies, client states and enemies are paying ever less attention to its wishes and desires, often without serious penalty. It has the classic look of a great power in decline and in another moment it might be easy enough to predict that, though far wealthier than its Cold War superpower adversary, it has simply been heading for the graveyard more slowly but no less surely.
Such a prediction would, however, be unwise. Never since the modern era began has a waning power so lacked serious competition or been essentially without enemies. Whether in decline or not, the United States — these days being hailed as “the new Saudi Arabia” in terms of its frackable energy wealth — is visibly in no danger of losing its status as the planet’s only imperial power.
What, then, of power itself? Are we still in some strange way — to bring back the long forgotten Bush-era phrase — in a unipolar moment? Or is power, as it was briefly fashionable to say, increasingly multipolar? Or is it helter-skelter-polar? Or, on a planet whose temperatures are rising, droughts growing more severe and future food prices threatening to soar (meaning yet more protest, violence and disruption), are there even “poles” any more?
Here, in any case, is a reality of the initial 13 years of the 21st century: for the first time in at least a half a millennium, the imperial principle seems to be ebbing, and yet the only imperial power, increasingly incapable of organizing the world, isn’t going down.
If you survey our planet, the situation is remarkably unsettled and confusing. But at least two things stand out, and whatever you make of them, they could be the real news of the first decades of this century. Both are right before our eyes, yet largely unseen. First, the imperial principle and the great power competition to which it has been wedded are on the wane. Second and no less startling, war (global, intrastate, anti-insurgent), which convulsed the 20th century, seems to be waning as well. What in the world does it all mean?
A Scarcity of Great Powers
Let’s start with the imperial part of the equation. From the moment the Europeans dispatched their cannon-bearing wooden ships on a violent exploration and conquest of the globe, there has never been a moment when one or more empires weren’t rising as others waned, or when at least two and sometimes several “great powers” weren’t competing for ways to divide the planetary spoils and organize, encroach upon or take over spheres of influence.
In the wake of World War II, with the British Empire essentially penniless and the German, Japanese and Italian versions of empire crushed, only two great powers were left. They more or less divided the planet unequally between them. Of the two, the United States was significantly wealthier and more powerful. In 1991, after a nearly half-century-long Cold War in which those superpowers at least once came to the edge of a nuclear exchange, and blood was spilled in copious amounts on “the peripheries” in “limited war,” the last of the conflicts of that era — in Afghanistan — helped take down the Soviet Union. When its army limped home from what its leader referred to as “the bleeding wound” and its economy imploded, the USSR unexpectedly — and surprisingly peacefully — disappeared.
Which, of course, left one. The superest of all powers of any time — or so many in Washington came to believe. There had never, they were convinced, been anything like it. One hyperpower, one planet: that was to be the formula. Talk of a “peace dividend” disappeared quickly enough and, with the US military financially and technologically dominant and no longer worried about a war that might quite literally end all wars, a new era seemed to begin.
There had, of course, been an ongoing “arms race” between great powers since at least the end of the 19th century. Now, at a moment when it should logically have been over, the US instead launched an arms race of one to ensure that no other military would ever be capable of challenging its forces. (Who knew then that those same forces would be laid low by ragtag crews of insurgents with small arms, homemade roadside bombs and their own bodies as their weapons?)
As the new century dawned, a crew led by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney ascended to power in Washington. They represented the first administration ever largely born of a think tank (with the ambitious name Project for a New American Century). Long before 9/11 gave them their opportunity to set the American military loose on the planet, they were already dreaming of an all-American imperium that would outshine the British or Roman empires.
Of course, who doesn’t know what happened next? Though they imagined organizing a Pax Americana in the Middle East and then on a planetary scale, theirs didn’t turn out to be an organizational vision at all. They got bogged down in Afghanistan, destabilizing neighboring Pakistan. They got bogged down in Iraq, having punched a hole through the heart of the planet’s oil heartlands and set off a Sunni-Shiite regional civil war, whose casualty lists continue to stagger the imagination. In the process, they never came close to their dream of bringing Tehran to its knees, no less establishing even the most rudimentary version of that Pax Americana.
They were an imperial whirlwind, but every move they made proved disastrous. In effect, they lent a hand to the de-imperialization of the planet. By the time they were done and the Obama years were upon us, Latin America was no longer an American “backyard”; much of the Middle East was a basketcase (but not an American one); Africa, into which Washington continues to move military forces, was beginning to destabilize; Europe, for the first time since the era of French President Charles de Gaulle, seemed ready to say “no” to American wishes (and was angry as hell).
And yet power, seeping out of the American system, seemed to be coagulating nowhere. Russian President Vladimir Putin has played a remarkably clever hand. From his role in brokering a Syrian deal with Washington to the hosting of the Olympics and a winning medal count in Sochi, he’s given his country the look of a great power. In reality, however, it remains a relatively ramshackle state, a vestige of the Soviet era still, as in Ukraine, fighting a rearguard action against history (and the inheritors of the Cold War mantle, the US and the European Union).
The EU is an economic powerhouse, but in austerity-gripped disarray. While distinctly a great economic force, it is not in any functional sense a great power.
China is certainly the enemy of choice both for Washington and the American public. And it is visibly a rising power, which has been putting ever more money into building a regional military. Still, it isn’t fighting and its economic and environmental problems are staggering enough, along with its food and energy needs, that any future imperial destiny seems elusive at best. Its leadership, while more bullish in the Pacific, is clearly in no mood to take on imperial tasks. (Japan is similarly an economic power with a chip on its shoulder, putting money into creating a more expansive military, but an actual imperial repeat performance seems beyond unlikely.)
There was a time when it was believed that as a group the so-called BRICS countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (and some added Turkey) — would be the collective powerhouse of a future multi-polar planet. But that was before the Brazilian, South African, Indian and Turkish economies stopped looking so rosy.
In the end, the US aside, great powers remain scarcer than hen’s teeth.
War: Missing in Action
Now, let’s move on to an even more striking and largely unremarked upon characteristic of these years. If you take one country — or possibly two — out of the mix, war between states or between major powers and insurgencies has largely ceased to exist.
Admittedly, every rule has its exceptions and from full-scale colonial-style wars (Iraq, Afghanistan) to small-scale conflicts mainly involving drones or air power (Yemen, Somalia, Libya), the United States has seemingly made traditional war its own in the early years of this century. Nonetheless, the Iraq war ended ignominiously in 2011 and the Afghan War seems to be limping to something close to an end in a slow-motion withdrawal this year. In addition, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has just announced the Pentagon’s intention to cut its boots-on-the-ground contingent significantly in the years to come, a sign that future conflicts are far less likely to involve full-scale invasions and occupations on the Eurasian land mass.
Possible exception number two: Israel launched a 34-day war against Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006 and a significant three-week military incursion into the Gaza Strip in 2008-2009 (though none of this added up to anything like the wars that country fought in the previous century).
Otherwise when it comes to war — that is, to sending armies across national boundaries or, in 19th-century style, to distant lands to conquer and “pacify” — we’re left with almost nothing. It’s true that the last war of the previous century between Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea straggled six months into this one. There was as well the 2008 Russian incursion into Georgia (a straggler from the unraveling of the Soviet Union). Dubbed the “five-day war,” it proved a minor affair (if you didn’t happen to be Georgian).
There was also a dismal US-supported Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2006 (and a Kenyan invasion of that mess of a country but not exactly state in 2011). As for more traditional imperial-style wars, you can count them on one hand, possibly one finger: the 2013 French intervention in Mali (after a disastrous US/NATO air-powered intervention in Libya destabilized that neighboring country). France has also sent its troops elsewhere in Africa, most recently into the Central African Republic, but these were at best micro-versions of nineteenth century colonial wars. Turkey has from time to time struck across its border into Iraq as part of an internal conflict with its Kurdish population.
Now, the above might look like a sizeable enough list until you consider the record for the second half of the 20th century in Asia alone: The Korean War (1950-1953), a month-long border war between China and India in 1962, the French and American wars in Vietnam (1946-1975), the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1978; China’s invasion of Vietnam in 1979; and Indian-Pakistani wars in 1965, 1971 and 1999. (The Bangladeshi war of independence in 1971 was essentially a civil war.) And that, of course, leaves out the carnage of the first 50 years of a century that began with a foreign intervention in the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 and the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 and ended with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In fact, judged by almost any standard from just about any period in the previous two centuries, war is now missing in action, which is indeed something new under the sun.
Driving With the Lights Off
So an imperial era is on the wane, war in absentia and no rising great power contenders on the horizon. Historically speaking, that’s a remarkable scorecard in an otherwise appalling world.
Of course, the lack of old-style war hardly means that there’s no violence. In the 13 years of this new century, the scorecard on internal strife and civil war, often with external involvement, has been awful to behold: Yemen (with the involvement of the Saudis and the Americans), Syria (with the involvement of the Russians, the Saudis, the Qataris, the Iranians, Hezbollah, the Iraqis, the Turks and the Americans), and so on. The record, including the Congo (numerous outside parties), South Sudan, Darfur, India (a Maoist insurgency), Nigeria (Islamic extremists) and so on, couldn’t be grimmer.
Moreover, 13 years at the beginning of a century is a rather small sampling. Just think of 1914 and the great war that followed. Before the present Ukrainian crisis is over, for instance, Russian troops could again cross a border in force (as in 2008) along the still fraying edges of the former Soviet Union. It’s also possible (though developments seem to be leading in quite a different direction) that either the Israelis or the Americans could still launch an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, increasing the chaos and violence in the Middle East. Similarly, an incident in the edgy Pacific might trigger an unexpected conflict between Japan and China. (Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently compared this moment in Asia to the eve of World War I in Europe and his country and China to England and Germany.) And of course there are the “resource wars” expected on an increasingly devastated planet.
Still, for the moment there’s no rising empire and no states fighting each other. So who knows? Maybe we are off the beaten path of history and in terra incognita. Perhaps this is a road we’ve never been down before, an actual new world order. If so, we’re driving it with our headlights off, the wind whipping up and the rain pouring down on a planet that may itself, in climate terms, be heading for uncharted territory.
Web Video: Bill Moyers Interviews Adolph Reed Jr. on the Surrender of the Left
Bill’s conversation with political scientist Adolph Reed about his Harper’s piece, “Nothing Left,” arguing that the American left has retreated as the Democratic Party moved to the right has stirred plenty of discussion and debate. Below, we’ve rounded up some perspectives — yours, and those of some other political writers.
At the Blog for America’s Future, Richard Eskow writes that while he agrees with much of what Reed says about liberals giving Democrats too much slack, he thinks Reed’s too pessimistic:
Just as liberals aren’t unremittingly gullible, things today aren’t unremittingly grim. While neoliberalism may be ascendant, there are also signs of a nascent but potentially vibrant left. A case in point: As Moyers noted in his questioning, grassroots activism for more than 500 organizations threw a monkey wrench into Obama’s plans to “fast track” the Trans-Pacific Partnership through Congress.
Here’s another: The minimum wage, which had languished in the political process for years, was given renewed energy after fast food workers rose up to demand it. That attracted both institutional and rhetorical support and gave this critical issue new momentum. Local organizing has led to minimum-wage increases in a number of states and to a dramatic $15 minimum wage initiative in SeaTac, Washington.
And here are a few more: Effective organizing around the issue of Social Security has shifted the Beltway dialogue away from a “bipartisan” consensus bent on cutting the program and toward proposals for expanding its benefits. Occupy Wall Street, despite its sudden (and never fully explained) implosion, shifted the national debate in a matter of weeks.
What’s more, despite all the media talk to the contrary, public opinion supports the left on a number of key issues… (read more)
Harper's magazine's March 2014 cover. (Illustration: Tim Bower)
Has the American left ceased to exist as a viable political force by surrendering its power to a corporatized Democratic Party? That’s the argument put forward by political scientist Adolph Reed Jr. first in an essay for Harper’s magazine and then in a televised follow-up interview with Bill Moyers.
Reed’s essay, “Nothing Left: The Long, Slow Surrender of American Liberals,” has a blunt message which might be summarized as follows: The fault, dear liberals, lies not in our political stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings. It’s not necessarily a new thought, but it packs a punch, especially as Reed has organized and expressed it.
“Nothing Left” is an incisive, pointed cri du coeur with the potential to jumpstart some long-overdue conversations. And if there’s one thing the left needs, it’s a serious talk about its future. The alternative is the continued fragmentation of an inchoate movement, accompanied by a never-ending rightward shift in American politics and the continued ascendancy of corporate economic power.
Reed’s analysis, while stated harshly at times, is very much on point. There’s very little “left” left in American politics. But his outlook seems overly pessimistic and it runs the risk of discouraging the very people who might someday help rebuild an American left. They’re more likely to come together around a concrete agenda built on leftist principles such as job creation, fair wages and a stronger social safety net. It’s possible to be positive without being Pollyanna-ish. MORE
President Barack Obama walks across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, March 5, 2013, before leaving for the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
In January 2009, Barack Obama entered the Oval Office projecting idealism and pride in being the constitutional law professor devoted to turning democratic principles into action. In his first weeks in office, in a series of executive orders and public statements, the new president broadcast for all to hear the five commandments by which life in his new world of national security would be lived.
Thou shalt not torture.
Thou shalt not keep Guantanamo open.
Thou shalt not keep secrets unnecessarily.
Thou shalt not wage war without limits.
Thou shalt not live above the law.
Five years later, the question is: How have he and his administration lived up to these self-proclaimed commandments?
Let’s consider them one by one:
1. Thou Shalt Not Torture.
Here, the president has fared best at living up to his own standards and ending a shameful practice encouraged and supported by the previous administration. On his first day in office, he ordered an end to the practice of torture, or as the Bush administration euphemistically called it, “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EITs), by agents of the US government. In the president’s words, “effective immediately” individuals in US custody “shall not be subjected to any interrogation technique or approach, or any treatment related to interrogation, that is not authorized by and listed in [the] Army Field Manual.”
No questioning of future terror suspects would be done without using standard, legal forms of interrogation codified in the American criminal and military justice systems. This meant, among other things, shutting down the network of secret prison facilities, or “black sites,” that the Bush administration had established globally from Poland to Thailand, where the CIA had infamously tortured its captives in the Global War on Terror. With that in mind, Obama ordered the CIA to “close as expeditiously as possible any detention facilities that it currently operates and… not operate any such detention facility in the future.”
The practice of officially sponsored torture, which had, in fact, begun to fall into disuse in the last years of the Bush administration, has now to come to a full stop. Admittedly, there are still some issues that warrant attention. The continued force-feeding of detainees at Guantanamo is a case in point, but state-sponsored torture, justified by law, is now, as before the Bush years, illegal in America.
The commandment banning torture has, it seems, lasted into the sixth year of Obama’s presidency — and so much for the good news.
2. Thou Shalt Not Keep Guantanamo Open.
On his first day in office, President Obama also pledged to close the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention facility, home at the time to 245 detainees, within a year. The task proved politically impossible. So today, the president stands pledged once again to close it within a year. As he said in his State of the Union Address last month, “this needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.” And it’s possible that, this time, he might actually do so.
In June 2013, the president appointed former Clinton White House lawyer Cliff Sloan as special envoy in charge of closing Guantanamo. After a long period in which the administration seemed stymied, in part by Congress, in its efforts to send detainees approved for release home or to a third country, Sloan has overseen the transfer of 11 of them from the island prison. He is now reportedly working to transfer the less than 80 remaining individuals the Pentagon has cleared.
But there’s a catch. No matter how many prisoners Sloan succeeds in releasing, President Obama has made it clear that he only means to close Guantanamo in the most technical sense possible — by emptying the current facility in one fashion or another. He is, it turns out, quite prepared to keep the Guantanamo system of indefinite detention itself intact and has no intention of releasing all the detainees. Those who can’t be tried — due, it is claimed, to lack of evidence — will nonetheless be kept indefinitely somewhere. Fewer than 50 prisoners remain behind bars without charges or trial until — as the formula goes — the authorities determine that they no longer pose a risk to American national security. Although the population is indeed dwindling (Gitmo currently holds 155 detainees), the most basic aspect of the system, the strikingly un-American claim that suspects in Washington’s war on terror can be held forever and a day without charges or trial, will remain in place.
In other words, when it comes to his second commandment, the president will be able to follow it only by redefining what closure means.
3. Thou Shalt Not Keep Secrets.
The first issue that Obama singled out as key to his presidency on his initial day in office was the necessity of establishing a sunshine administration. Early on, he tied his wagon to ending the excessive secrecy of the Bush administration and putting more information in the public arena. Bush-era policies of secrecy had been crucial to the establishment of torture practices, warrantless wiretapping, and other governmental excesses and patently illegal activities. Obama’s self-professed aim was to restore trust between the people and their government by pledging himself to “transparency” — that is, the open sharing of government information and its acts with the citizenry.
Transparency, he emphasized, “promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their government is doing. Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. My administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use.” Towards that end, the president made a first gesture to seal his good intentions: he released a number of previously classified documents from the Bush years on torture policy.
And there, as it happened, the sunshine ended and the shadows crept in again. In the five years that followed, little of note occurred in the name of transparency and much, including a war against whistleblowers of every sort, was pursued in the name of secrecy. In those years, in fact, the Obama administration offered secrecy (and its spread) a remarkable embrace. The president also sent a chill through the government itself by prosecuting seven individuals who saw themselves as whistleblowers, far more than all other presidents combined. And it launched an international manhunt to capture Edward Snowden, after he turned over to various journalists secret National Security Agency files documenting its global surveillance methods. At one point, the administration even arranged to have the Bolivian president’s plane forced down over Europe on the (mistaken) assumption that Snowden was aboard.
After the drumbeat of Snowden’s revelations had been going on for months, government officials, including the president, continued to insist that the NSA’s massive, secret, warrantless surveillance techniques were crucial to American safety. (This was denied in no uncertain terms by a panel of five prominent national security experts Obama appointed to examine the secret documents and propose reforms for the NSA surveillance programs.) Spokespeople for the administration continued to insist as well that the exposure of these secret NSA policies represented harm to the nation’s security of the most primal sort. (For this claim, too, there has still been no proof.)
Before Snowden’s revelations about the gathering of the phone metadata of American citizens, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper evidently had no hesitation in lying to a congressional committee on the subject. In their wake, he claimed that they were the “most massive and most damaging theft of intelligence information in our history.” Certainly, they were the most embarrassing for officials like Clapper.
By 2014, it couldn’t have been clearer that secrecy, not transparency, had become this government’s mantra (accompanied by vague claims of national security), just as in the Bush years. One clear example of this unabashed embrace of secrecy came to light last month when that presidentially appointed panel weighed in on reforming the NSA. While constructive reforms were indeed suggested, the idea that a secret court — the FISA court — could be the final arbiter of who can legally be surveilled was not challenged. Instead, the reforms suggested and accepted by Obama were clearly aimed at strengthening the court. No one seemed to raise the question: Isn’t a secret court anathema to democracy?
Nor, of course, has secrecy been limited to the NSA. It’s been a hallmark of the Obama years and, for instance, continues to hamper the military commissions at Guantanamo. Their hands are tied (so to speak) by the CIA’s obsessive anxieties that still-classified material might come out in court — either the outdated information al-Qaeda figures detained for more than a decade once knew or evidence of how brutally they were tortured. Perhaps the most striking example of government secrecy today, however, is the drone program. There, the president continues to insist that the Justice Department documents offering “legal” authorization and justification for White House-ordered drone assassinations of suspects, including American citizens, remain classified, even as administration officials leak information on the program that they think will make them look justified.
On the commandment against secrecy, then, the president has decidedly and defiantly moved from a shall-not to a shall.
4. Thou Shalt Not Wage War Without Limits.
At the outset of Obama’s presidency, the administration called into question the notion of a borderless battlefield, aka the globe. He also threw into the trash heap of history the Bush administration’s term “Global War on Terror,” or GWOT as it came to be known acronymically.
This January, in his State of the Union address, the president stated his continued aversion to the notion that Washington should pursue an unlimited war. He was speaking by now not just about the geography of the boundless battlefield, but of the very idea of warfare without an endpoint. “America,” he counseled, “must move off a permanent war footing.” Months earlier, in speaking about the use of drone warfare, the president had noted his commitment to pulling back on the use of force. “So I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the [Authorization for the Use of Military Force’s] mandate.”
Despite the president’s insistence on placing limits on war, however, his own brand of warfare has helped lay the basis for a permanent state of American global warfare via “low footprint” drone campaigns and special forces operations aimed at an ever morphing enemy usually identified as some form of al-Qaeda. According to Senator Lindsey Graham, the Obama administration has already killed 4,700 individuals in numerous countries, including Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. It has killed four U.S. citizens in the process and is reportedly considering killing a fifth. The president has successfully embedded the process of drone killings in the executive branch in such a way that any future president will inherit them, along with the White House “kill list” and its “terror Tuesday” meetings. Unbounded global war is now part of what it means to be president.
On the commandment against waging limitless war, then, the president has visibly failed to comply with his own mandate.
5. Thou Shalt Not Live Above the Law
At the outset of his presidency, Obama seemed to hold the concept of accountability in high regard. Following the spirit of his intention to ban torture, his attorney general, Eric Holder, opened an investigation into the torture policies of the Bush years. He even appointed a special prosecutor to look into CIA interrogation abuses. Two years later, though, all but two of the cases were dropped without prosecution. In 2012, the final two cases, both involving the deaths of detainees, were dropped as well on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence “to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.” Nor was there any appetite inside the administration for prosecuting the Bush-era Justice Department lawyers who had drafted the “torture memos” providing the bogus justifications for applying torture techniques such as waterboarding in the first place.
Not punishing those who created and applied the policy was clearly a signal that no acts committed as part of the war on terror and under the rubric of national security would ever be prosecuted. This was, in its own way, an invitation to some future presidency to revive the torture program. Nor have its defenders been silenced. If torture had been considered truly illegal, and people had been held accountable, then perhaps assurances against its recurrence would be believable. Instead, each and every time they are given the chance, leading figures from the Bush administration defend the practice.
In former CIA Director Michael Hayden’s words, “the fact is it did work.” Marc Thiessen, former speechwriter for President Bush and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, has underscored this message: “Dick Cheney is right. The CIA interrogation program did produce valuable intelligence that stopped attacks and saved lives.”
While the case against the torturers was dropped, a potentially shocking and exhaustive analysis of CIA documents on the “enhanced interrogation program,” a 6,000 page report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, is still tangled up in administration secrecy rules and regulations (see Commandment 2), despite innumerable requests for its release. Supposedly the report claims that the torture program did not work or fulfill any of the claims of its supporters.
In other words, the absence of accountability for one of the most egregious crimes committed in the name of the American people persists. And from drone killings to NSA surveillance policies, the Obama administration has continued to support those in the government who are perfectly ready to live above the law.
On this commandment, then, the president has once again failed to meet his own standards.
Five years later, Obama’s commandants need a rewrite. Here’s what they should now look like and, barring surprises in the next three years, these, as written, will both be the virtual law of the land and constitute the Obama legacy.
Thou shalt not torture (but thou shalt leave the door open to the future use of torture).
Thou shalt detain forever.
Thou shalt live by limitless secrecy.
Thou shalt wage war everywhere and forever.
Thou shalt not punish those who have done bad things in the name of the national security state.
It occurs to me that I spend an inordinate amount of time in this space pointing out the ludicrous, the extreme and the absurd in America. Doing so is just slightly less fun than emergency root canal during a national novocaine shortage. To be fair, however, there’s a hell of a lot to talk about in that particular vein, the fodder for these stories are the people running the country, and not nearly enough people in a position to inform the public are talking about it, so I do it.
Students Julian Lopez, 12th grade, second left; Ben Montalbano, 11th grade, second right; and James Agostino, 12th grade, right; listen during their Advanced Placement (AP) Physics class at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
But as a math teacher in a heavily minority, high-poverty high school, I’m not popping any champagne yet. The five-point overall fourth grade reading gain masks the fact that the improvement among higher-income students was quadruple that of their low-income counterparts, widening what was already a huge gap. I am even more troubled by the tiny two-point gain in reading for low-income fourth graders since 2009, which is dwarfed by a 19-point gain for their more advantaged peers.
I agree with Duncan and Henderson that zip code should not determine a child’s odds of school success. But it’s important to tell the hard, uncomfortable truth that it often does, and I see every day how DCPS policies make it harder, not easier, for my students to compete with their more advantaged counterparts. MORE
Decades ago there was a cartoon, I believe it was in The New Yorker: A mousy, James Thurber-esque little man is in front of a newsstand. The newspapers on display feature screaming headlines like these: ‘TERRIFIC TANK BATTLES RAGE IN FRANCE; THOUSAND BOMBER RAID ON BERLIN; YANKS STORM PACIFIC STRONGHOLDS.’ The little man approaches the news vendor and says, “Action Stories, please.”
That cartoon reminds me of the immense popularity among the chattering classes of the Netflix political drama House of Cards. For those with the good fortune not to possess a television, the series is the American knockoff of a British drama of the same name from two decades ago. Both series vividly depict the swinish behavior and Machiavellian scheming that film directors now consider mandatory for genres like this, but in an oddly decontextualized political and social environment.
The principal characters, Francis Urquhart in the British version and Frank Underwood in the American, are Central Casting’s up-to-date representations of the conniving politician on the make: coldly cynical, sociopathically amoral and not even blanching at the cold-blooded murder of an inconvenient witness. This is quite an advance, in terms of a Nietzschean transvaluation of values, over the stock Allen Drury or Fletcher Knebel characters of the political potboilers of half a century ago or even over Claude Raines as Senator Joe Paine in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. While Paine was a crook marinated in corruption, at long last, his conscience compelled him to a failed suicide attempt and a passionate confession of his misdeeds on the Senate floor. MORE
For the fourth year running, Florida is trying to outlaw the use of foreign and international law in state courts. Missouri has mounted another attempt to pass an anti-foreign law measure after last year’s effort was vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon. The bans also have crept farther north, making a debut in Vermont.
These laws, which have passed in seven states, are the brainchild of anti-Muslim activists bent on spreading the illusory fear that Islamic laws and customs (also known as Shariah) are taking over American courts. This fringe movement shifted its focus to all foreign laws after a federal court struck down an Oklahoma ban explicitly targeting Shariah as discriminatory toward Muslims.
But, as explained in a report by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, by banning all foreign law, the laws create new problems, particularly for American businesses with commercial relationships overseas. To avoid ensnaring routine international commerce, supporters of foreign law bans have added a confusing array of restrictions and exemptions to ensure that only those who are disfavored are targeted.
And as these restrictions pile up, the bans come full circle and reveal their true purpose: to demonize the Islamic faith.
For decades, American courts have applied foreign law as long as it does not violate US public policy. This approach has worked well: Supporters of the bans have yet to point to a single case where foreign law has been used to violate the rights of Americans. US companies are increasingly involved in cross-border transactions, and sometimes prefer to rely on foreign law because it protects their interests. When disputes arise, they count on the courts to respect their choice and apply the appropriate foreign legal principles.
Responding to concerns that these laws would be bad for business, legislators in several states exempted corporations, which were never the intended targets anyway. But this exemption led to even more questions: What about unincorporated businesses? Sole proprietors? When employees take corporations to court, how will the bans affect the proceedings?
To avoid this new set of problems, many foreign law bans — such as the ban in North Carolina and the bill recently introduced in Florida — are expressly limited to family matters. America is a country of immigrants, and this focus on family disputes affects all of us who have relatives overseas, regardless of their faith. For example, Jewish-American couples who marry in Israel, where such marriages and divorces are governed by rabbinic law, could be in trouble in Florida. The bill pending in Tallahassee may prevent courts from recognizing any marriage license, divorce decree or child custody order issued in Israel.
In Missouri, groups that help childless couples adopt from overseas successfully lobbied Nixon to veto the ban last year. But the response has been characteristically insular. Rather than abandon an unnecessary and potentially hazardous measure, Missouri legislators are pressing on with a ban that targets all family matters — except adoptions.
The motives of those pushing for bans on foreign law become clearer with each limitation. It beggars belief that supporters of these bans are genuinely concerned about the purported ills of foreign law when they are so ready to make concessions. Instead, “foreign law” provides a convenient — and increasingly transparent — fig leaf for supporters to stir up misconceptions and fear about Muslims. Although the legislators leading the charge for foreign law bans have not been shy about their agenda, the state legislators who vote for them for other reasons can no longer pretend they don’t understand what these bans are about.
Nor can the federal government. President Obama has recognized the importance of the role played by all faiths in our democracy and has chastised foreign governments for their treatment of minority religious communities. But he has done little to stem this tide of anti-Muslim propaganda disguised as law. It’s time he took a public stance and condemned these moves as divisive to our democracy.
The Department of Justice, too, should drop its passive approach and start examining whether there are federal law grounds for challenging these laws. America’s religious communities should not have to wage this battle alone.
Faiza Patel serves as Co-Director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, which seeks to ensure that our government respects human rights and fundamental freedoms in conducting the fight against terrorism.
Amos Toh serves as Katz Fellow and Counsel at the Brennan Center. He works mainly with the Liberty and National Security Program, which seeks to ensure that our government respects fundamental freedoms and human rights in conducting the fight against terrorism.
This week, Mike Lofgren spoke with Bill about what he describes as America’s “Deep State,” where elected and unelected officials collude to protect and serve powerful, vested interests. In conjunction with the show, Lofgren’s essay, “Anatomy of the Deep State,” has been published on BillMoyers.com. We asked a number of people, including several previous Moyers & Company guests, to share their reactions to the Deep State.
“What words best describe present-day Washington politics? The commonplace answer, endlessly repeated by politicians themselves and media observers alike, is this: dysfunction, gridlock, partisanship and incivility. Yet here’s a far more accurate term: tacit consensus. Where Republicans and Democrats disagree, however loudly, matters less than where their views align. Differences entertain. Yet like-mindedness, even if unacknowledged, determines both action and inaction.
In the ‘Bill-W.-Obama’ era, a neoliberal consensus defines American politics… With perceived threats to that system now coming primarily from abroad, exercising global leadership, backed by ample military muscle, now became one of liberalism’s abiding signatures. This modified consensus, superseding progressivism, dominated the American political scene for several decades during the latter half of the 20th century. Although the Cold War has long since ended, this emphasis on an expansive, militarized foreign policy persists.” Read more »MORE
I think Mike Lofgren is right that much of what the United States does of importance is unseen by the public and has only the most tangential relationship with the partisan sideshows in Congress, which are misunderstood and misrepresented as the main story. The heated battles over ridiculous issues like the debt limit might, to a cynic, be understood as distractions meant to entertain the public and satisfy their desire to feel that politics is taking place.
But the mistake that Lofgren makes is to think that what he describes is only the case for a “Deep State” centered on national security or law enforcement. To be sure, the attention is warranted, for these are the parts of the government that wield the most terrifying powers, particularly overseas. But anyone who has worked for other parts of government knows that they too operate under the radar screen. And here, in the real business of government, we find that parties are often less relevant than are industry loyalties; instead of really being a Democrat or Republican, one is more accurately loyal to the cable industry, big oil, Hollywood and so on.
Cars drive past a sign outside the Facebook headquarters at Menlo Park in the Silicon Valley. February 2012. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
As a minor aside — and perhaps I might be accused of defending my own party — Lofgren is not familiar with Silicon Valley and makes a few errors in this respect. I would say that the Valley is newer to Washington and has not yet developed ties as strong as, say, the defense industry, Hollywood or the incumbent telecommunications industries (I should add that intellectual property protection is mainly a southern California obsession). It is not a business that, at least yet, depends on Washington to guarantee profit or protect it from competition. The harder question is whether it’s only a matter of time.
Tim Wu is the Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law at the Columbia Law School. He teaches copyright, communications law & policy, antitrust and other courses at the school. He has authored Master Switch and co-authored Who Controls the Internet. He has held Visiting Professorships at the Harvard Law School, Chicago Law School and Stanford Law School.
Mike Lofgren’s long experience on the Hill has given him a small window, he might say only an aperture, into a vast network of unaccountable governmental and private institutions he calls the “Deep State” in his essay. There is much that is valuable in his explication of these networks, which depend on public tax money for their operation but typically do not answer to the public in any significant way. Indeed, the public is assiduously kept in the dark about much of what they do.
The danger of this invisible institutional latticework to any but a dryly procedural notion of democracy is obvious. Its menace to individual privacy and liberty is obvious. If absolute power corrupts absolutely, invisible power corrupts invisibly.
Demonstrators march through Washington towards the National Mall to rally and demand that the US Congress investigate the National Security Agency's mass surveillance programs, Oct. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Let me, however, push back a little bit against Lofgren’s conceptual apparatus. Egypt also has a Deep State, but the young revolutionaries who overthrew the president for life in 2011 warned against using the very conception, since, they said, it overstated the paper tiger of elite power and could discourage popular action to rein it in. MORE
Forget about the Machiavellian drama that plays out in the hit series The House of Cards, if you really want to be educated (or frightened) about what goes on in the nation’s capital, just let everything you read in Mike Lofgren’s essay sink in.
We don’t need fictional Frank Underwoods to tell us that Washington is rotten at its core. That’s because, as is often the case, the truth is much scarier than fiction.
With the skill of a prosecutor, Lofgren shines a light on the secret web of influence-peddling that spreads far and wide beneath the surface of our democracy.
The really creepy part is that a lot of this corruption (the revolving doors, lobbying activities and campaign contributions, for instance) is legal.
The ideological gridlock that grips Congress might make you angry. But as Lofgren points in his professorial manner, what should really get your blood pumping are the strings being pulled by the real decision makers: the executives on Wall Street, in Silicon Valley and in the military-intelligence industrial complex surrounding the Beltway.
The really creepy part is that a lot of this corruption (the revolving doors, lobbying activities and campaign contributions, for instance) is legal. Mull that over: We’ve passed laws allowing the “Deep State” to not only exist, but also to flourish.
Watch: Sheila Krumholz and Danielle Brian on How Money Rules Washington
For many of the 300-plus million people who live outside of the Beltway, their view of Washington is likely colored by the endless bickering between our political leaders.
Sadly, focusing on the sound bites and talking points conveniently distracts us from focusing on the biggest threat to our democracy and civil liberties — the Deep State and all its terrible tentacles.
Danielle Brian is the executive director of the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), a nonpartisan independent watchdog group that works to ensure a more effective, accountable and transparent government. Brian frequently testifies before Congress, and meets regularly with legislators, White House officials and federal agencies to encourage a more open and ethical government. government.
The notion of the “Deep State” as outlined by Mike Lofgren may be useful in pointing to a new configuration of power in the US in which corporate sovereignty replaces political sovereignty, but it is not enough to simply expose the hidden institutions and structures of power.
What we have in the US today is fundamentally a new mode of politics, one wedded to a notion of “power unaccompanied by accountability of any kind,” and this poses a deep and dire threat to democracy itself, because such power is difficult to understand, analyze and counter.
The biggest problem facing the US may not be its repressive institutions, modes of governance and the militarization of everyday life, but the interiority of neoliberal nihilism, the hatred of democratic relations and the embrace of a culture of cruelty.
I would suggest that what needs to be addressed is some sense of how this unique authoritarian conjuncture of power and politics came into place. More specifically, there is no mention by Lofgren of the collapse of the social state that began in the 1970s with the rise of neoliberal capitalism, a far more dangerous form of market fundamentalism than we had seen in the first Gilded Age. Nor is there a sustained analysis of what is new about this ideology.
How, for instance, are the wars abroad related increasingly to the diverse forms of domestic terrorism that have emerged at home? What is new and distinctive about a society marked by militaristic violence, exemplified by its war on youth, women, gays, public values, public education and any viable exhibition of dissent? Why at this particular moment in history is an aggressive war being waged on not only whistle blowers, but also journalists, students, artists, intellectuals and the institutions that support them?
What’s missing in Lofgren’s essay is any reference to the rise of the punishing state with its massive racially inflected incarceration system, which amounts to a war on poor minorities, especially black youth. Nor is anything said about the culture of fear that now rules American life and how it functions to redefine the notion of security, diverting it away from social considerations to narrow matters of personal safety.
An Occupy Los Angeles protester holds a sign as he walks down the steps during a rally in Los Angeles, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Moreover, Lofgren needs to say more about a growing culture of cruelty brought about by the death of concessions in politics — a politics now governed by the ultra-rich and mega corporations that has no allegiance to local politics and produces a culture infused with a self-righteous coldness that takes delight in the suffering of others. Power is now separated from politics and floats, unchecked and uncaring.
This is a revolution in which the welfare state is being liquidated, along with the collective provisions that supported it. It is a revolution in which economics drives politics.
Neoliberalism is a new form of hybrid global financial authoritarianism. It is connected to the Deep State and marked by its savage willingness in the name of accumulation, privatization, deregulation, dispossession and power to make disposable a wide range of groups extending from low income youth and poor minorities to elements of the middle class that have lost jobs, social protections and hope.
Then, there is the central question, how does the Deep State function to encourage particular types of individualistic, competitive, acquisitive and entrepreneurial behavior in its citizens?
The biggest problem facing the US may not be its repressive institutions, modes of governance and the militarization of everyday life, but the interiority of neoliberal nihilism, the hatred of democratic relations and the embrace of a culture of cruelty. The role of culture as an educative force, a new and powerful force in politics is central here and is vastly underplayed in the essay (which of course cannot include everything). For instance, in what ways does the Deep State use the major cultural apparatuses to convince people that there is no alternative to existing relations of power, that consumerism is the ultimate mark of citizenship and that making money is the essence of individual and social responsibility?
In other words, there is no theory of cultural domination here, no understanding of how identities, subjectivities and values are shaped in the narrow and selfish image of commerce, how exchange values are the only values. In my estimation, the Deep State is symptomatic of something more ominous, the rise of a new form of authoritarianism, a counter-revolution in which society is being restructured and advanced under what might be called the neoliberal revolution. This is a revolution in which the welfare state is being liquidated, along with the collective provisions that supported it. It is a revolution in which economics drives politics.
Regarding the question of resistance, I think this is the weakest part of the essay. I don’t believe the system is broken. I think it works well, but in the interest of very privileged and powerful elite economic and political interests that are aggressively waging a war on democracy itself. If there is to be any challenge to this system, it cannot be made within the discourse of liberal reform, which has largely served to maintain the system. Occupy and many other social movements recognize this. These groups have refused to be defined by the dominant media, the dictates of the security state, the financialization of everyday life and forms of representations that are utterly corrupt.
Hope and resistance will only come when the call for reform and working within the system gives way to imagining a very different understanding of what democracy means. The new authoritarianism with its diverse tentacles is the antithesis of democracy, and if we are going to change what Lofgren calls the Deep State, it is necessary to think in terms of an alternative that does not mimic its ideologies, institutions, governing structures and power relations.
Watch: Henry Giroux on Zombie Politics
Two things are essential for challenging the new authoritarianism. First, there needs to be a change in collective consciousness about what democracy really means and what it might look like. This is a pedagogical task whose aim is to create the formative culture that produces the agents necessary for challenging neoliberal rule. Secondly, there is a need for a massive social movement with distinct strategies, organizations and the will to address the roots of the problem and imagine a very different kind of society, one that requires genuine democratic socialism as its aim. Democracy is on life support in the US and working within the system to change it is a dead end, except for gaining short-term reforms. The struggle for a substantive democracy needs more, and the American people expect more.