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David Sirota

David Sirota

Posted: October 16, 2005 11:42 PM

Newsflash: Media Discovers What Drives American Politics...Will Progressives Follow?


For the last few months, I have tried to point out how, despite the media's binary left-right portrayal, President Bush's Supreme Court nominations are really about one thing: solidifying Big Business's power in our legal system (for examples, see here, here, here, here and here). We are led to believe these fights are all about ideology or partisanship, when in fact they center around money, plain and simple.

Finally, one of the flagship publications of the insulated political establishment, the Washington Post, is now reporting on this stark reality. Well, that's an overstatement - the Post didn't really do the reporting on its own - it merely printed a piece by a reporter from Businessweek, one of America's best publications (remember - if you want to know what's really going on in the world, read business publications - they have no ideology, but are the best at reporting the facts as they are for people who are trying to make money, need the real details, and have no use for B.S. spin).

Still, this is a big moment as for once the mainstream media isn't trying to pigeonhole a political issue into purely partisan terms, when all the evidence shows that it is anything but. Here are the key excerpts:

"...another critical element of the Republican political base is applauding [Bush's court nominees] from the wings. That would be big business. For the first time in more than three decades, corporate America could find itself with not one, but two, Supreme Court allies with in-the-trenches industry experience -- Miers and newly minted Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. Don't be fooled by the low-key personas they have projected thus far; both are legal wonks who have packed a powerful punch in the corporate world. Together, they could be a CEO's dream team.... Miers has a blue-chip résumé that would wow Wall Street....Her decades as a high-powered corporate litigator are just the beginning. She also has served on the corporate boards of a securities fund and a mortgage company. She's tackled the entire spectrum of commercial issues firsthand, defending Texas car dealers against price-fixing charges, challenging claims that Microsoft sold defective software, protecting Walt Disney's trademarks, and taking on consumers who sued mortgage companies for violating debt collection laws. But, for the boardroom set, it's her work outside the courtroom that sets her apart. For years, Miers was a driving force in Texas for reforms that would protect industry from lawsuits."

This is the driving force in American politics today: the quest to empower Big Money. It is what moves almost every single political issue, despite the hackneyed, ultrapartisan narrative we so often hear in the media, from the political parties, and even from most of the Internet blogs. American politics is largely portrayed as "polarized" - but there is far less "polarization" among the governing elitists when it comes to the fundamental issues of economics and power that politics most intensely affects. There is, on many of these issues, anything but polarization. There is a bipartisan consensus that corporate power must be put above the interests of ordinary Americans (most recently, we've seen this bipartisan "screw average people" consensus on energy, bankruptcy, "free" trade, citizens' legal rights, and now court appointments). To pretend otherwise - or to pretend that this kind of elitism is confined only to one party - is to lie.

This fault line between Big Money and The Rest of Us is, as it has been through history, the most important narrative we face, despite many D.C. "strategists" trying to say otherwise. It is what my upcoming book, Hostile Takeover, is all about. The narrative surrounding this fault line is one that, incredibly, conservatives have dominated over the last decade, as they have "framed" all of their policies as if they are on the side of the people. That may seem counterintiutive since they so clearly represent Big Money, but think about it - on almost every major issue, their elitist policies are packaged as populist.

Progressives, sadly, have often refused to make the narrative their own, for fear they will be attacked for waging "class warfare." That's as pathetic as it is stupid because, in truth, whenever an elitist cries "class warfare" what they are really crying is "uncle." This is the fundamental truth that the tired, ineffective dinosaurs who are desperate to maintain their relevance in and control over the Democratic Party are desperate to deny. These are the folks who, no matter how many election losses they contribute to, continue to make money advocating for split-the-difference politics that denigrates populism in the name of capitulation/subservience to the corporate hacks who fund their institutions.

So, we face a choice. Are progressives going to continue in an emasculated state, willing only to shill for hollow partisanship, and unwilling to give voice to the millions of Americans who understand that today's politics - often regardless of party - works only to enrich the already rich, and empower the already powerful? Or are we going to be a about something more than just the next election and and more than just providing cover to politicians who "aren't that bad?" Are we, in short, going to be apologists for and deniers of a sad reality, or are we going to be a movement to change that reality into something better?