It’s Going Down throws in their two cents worth. Listen to their original podcast here. My assessment follows.
By Keith Preston
As for my assessment of the IGD podcast, I agree that if the election is close, what mainstream political scientists call a “constitutional crisis” is likely to result. I suspect there will be violence associated with the election regardless of who wins. The losing side will likely claim the winner cheated their way to victory. Because of the pandemic circumstances, it is more likely that instead of having an “election day” there will be an “election month” where the drama involving vote counting, premature claims of victory, and legal maneuvering are involved. It will probably be similar to the Bush/Gore election only more intense because the circumstances are more complicated and because the level of political polarization is now higher.
A limitation of the IDG analysis is they’re looking at things from a very narrow ideological lens and are just concerned about the interests of their own side. Fair enough. But they also miss certain things as a result. First, like liberal and left opinion generally, they exaggerate Trump’s uniqueness as a supposed authoritarian in a way that is contextually shallow. I discussed that in this assessment of Trump. I see the same thing coming from conservative/right opinion all the time where folks are claiming Bernie and AOC are puppet mastering the entire Democratic Party, or that the Bidenists are crypto-Bolsheviks.
I agree that the Republicans are essentially a minority party, and that they and their constituents (a shrinking demographic) are trying to go down fighting. The Republicans use many of the methods described to try to rig elections in their favor like gerrymandering and limiting voter access, and are trying to retain power through stacking the federal judiciary. Some of the more aristocratic aspects of the US system like the Senate and the Electoral College also give the Republicans power they wouldn’t otherwise have. Obviously, the Republicans want to cling to these things otherwise they’re finished.
But the Democrats also use comparable tactics like stacking voter rolls with fraudulent or fictitious voters. This isn’t anything new. Richard Daley and LBJ were famous for getting the “graveyard vote.” They typically want to eliminate or reduce voter requirements that control fraud (like voter ID laws). One reason they are pro-immigration is they’re hoping to import new constituencies for themselves (“Electing a new people”-Bertholt Brecht). They wish to eliminate the electoral college, obviously. Democratic-leaning political scientists have called for things like creating new states like DC and Puerto and expanding the number of House seats (both of which would expand the power of the Democrats in Congress). Others have suggested FDR-like court-packing schemes. In other words, it’s a two-way street.
Another problem with the IGD analysis is that, while they have some understanding of how the US system of power works, they don’t fully follow through on this train of analysis. The real power in the US are the upper strata of the power elite like the financial, industrial, technological, nuclear, intelligence, and military sectors. The politicians and elected officials are just managers, not the real power elite. And the parties are just state-owned corporations that function largely as theatrical productions (like the WWE). Yes, the parties certainly have interests of their own as organizations but their interests are subordinated to the wider interests of the power elite. The true power elite is not happy with Trump at all. They regard him as loose canon and bad manager who is not a team player. They have overruled him on issues where they think he actually threatens their interests. For instance, when he wanted to send out the military to suppress the rebellion, the Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, who is Raytheon’s front man in the Trump administration, simply vetoed that idea (Trump was livid in response). It’s basically a situation where the Board of Directors and major shareholders think the CEO is an asshole and want to push him out.
Both the Left and Right are missing the most important aspect of what is going on now. The neoconservatives, Bush Republicans, Lincoln Project, “Never Trumpers,” and majority of the capitalist class have effectively colonized the Democratic Party, formed an alliance with the neoliberals (like Biden, Pelosi, and Schumer), and successfully co-opted liberals and leftists with anti-Trumpism. The Democrats have gone out of their way to marginalize anyone with “anti-establishment” views, like Sanders, “the Squad,” Tulsi, Yang, Williamson, etc, while co-opting all of these, and co-opting many others much further to the left with fears of Trumpism.
Meanwhile, the neocons have successfully embedded themselves in the Trump administration as well. Pompeo is a neocon ally, and Elliot Abrams, the Podhoretz/Dector son-in-law, is now the US envoy to Iran. Regime change in Iran is the neocons’ and their allies main goal. The other ruling class interests that control the Republican Party (arms manufacturers, banking, agribusiness, petroleum, Wall Street, the Israel and Saudi lobbies, etc) are just as much in control of the Trump administration as they would be a Mitt Romney administration, and these sectors have their hands in both parties, anyway. The point is that the idea that Trump is some unique rogue actor is false. Most of the time he has governed as any normal Republican would (e.g. the obsession with taxes and military spending).
I liked the IGD discussion of the collapse of the USSR/Warsaw Pact as a model for bringing down the US regime, and using the states and cities as a vehicle for this (like the former Soviet republics and Eastern European satellites). That’s generally my view as well, and has been since 1989. But I don’t know that we are that point yet, or what kinds of results that would produce.