by Slavoj Žižek edited by O Society August 6, 2019
Many so-called Democrat ‘moderates’ would prefer Donald Trump to retain the US Presidency than for Bernie Sanders, or another genuine leftist, to defeat him.
In this sense they are mirror-images of establishment Republicans, such as George W Bush and Colin Powell, who publicly expressed support for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 contest.
In the course of this week’s heated Democratic Party primary debate, former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper warned “you might as well FedEx the election to Donald Trump” if the party adopts radical platforms. Such as Bernie Sanders’ ‘Medicare for All’ plan, the Green New Deal and other game-changing initiatives.
The ensuing passionate exchange clearly exposed the two camps in the Democratic Party: the ‘moderates’ (representatives of the New Democrats Clintonite party establishment whose main face is Joe Biden), and the more progressive democratic socialists (Bernie Sanders, perhaps Elizabeth Warren, plus the four young congresswomen baptized by Trump as the “Dem Squad,” and whose most popular face is now Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.)
This struggle is arguably the most important political battle taking place today anywhere in the world.
It may appear the moderates make a convincing case. After all, are democratic socialists not simply too radical to win over the majority of voters? Is the true struggle not the contest for undecided moderate voters who will never endorse a Muslim, like Ilhan Omar who keeps her hair covered? And did Trump himself not count on this when he brutally attacked the ‘Squad,’ thereby obliging the entire Democratic party to show solidarity with the four girls, elevating them to the status of party symbols?
For the Democratic Party centrists, the important thing is to get rid of Trump and bring back the normal liberal-democratic hegemony which his election disrupted.
Unfortunately, this strategy was already tested: Hillary Clinton followed it, and a large majority of the media thought she couldn’t lose because Trump was unelectable. Even the two Republican Presidents Bush, father and son, endorsed her, but she lost and Trump won. His victory undermined the establishment from the Right.
Now isn’t it time for the Left to do the same? Because, as with Trump three years ago, they have a serious chance of winning.
Of course it’s this prospect which throws the entire establishment into panic, even allowing for Trump’s pseudo-alternative. Mainstream economists predict the economic collapse of the US in the case of a Sanders victory and establishment political analysts fear the rise of totalitarian state socialism. At the same time, moderate Left liberals sympathize with the goals of the democratic socialists but warn that, unfortunately, they are out of touch with reality. Yet, they are right to panic: something entirely new is emerging in the US.
What is so refreshing about the leftist wing of the Democratic Party is that they left behind the stale waters of Political Correctness, as recently seen in the ‘MeToo’ excesses. While firmly standing with anti-racist and feminist struggles, they focus on social issues like universal healthcare and ecological threats, etc.
Far from being crazy socialists who want to turn the US into a new Venezuela, the left wing of the Democratic Party has simply brought to the US a taste of good old authentic European social democracy.
Indeed, a quick look at their program makes it abundantly clear they pose no greater threat to Western freedoms than Willy Brandt or Olof Palme did.
“Indeed who needs direct repression when one can convince the chicken to walk freely into the slaughterhouse”
What is even more important is they are not the only voice of the radicalized young generation. Already their public faces –four young women and an old white man– tell a different story. Yes, they clearly demonstrate that the majority of the younger generation in the US is tired of the establishment in all its versions. Also they are skeptical about the ability of capitalism as we know it to deal with the problems we are facing, and the word socialism is for them no longer a taboo.
However, the true miracle is how many who have joined forces with “old white men” like Sanders represent the older generation of ordinary workers, people who often tended to vote Republican or even for Trump.
What is going on here is something all the partisans of Culture Wars and identity politics considered impossible: anti-racists, feminists, and ecologists joining forces with what was considered the “moral majority” of ordinary working people. Bernie Sanders, not the so-called “alt-Right” extremists, is the true voice of the moral majority, if this term has any positive meaning.
So no, the eventual rise of the democratic socialists will not guarantee Trump’s re-election. It was Hickenlooper and other moderate Republicans (Democrats, whatever) who are actually FedExing a message to Trump from the debate. Their message is: “we may be your enemies, but we all want Bernie Sanders to lose. So don’t worry, if Bernie or someone like him will be the Democratic Party candidate, we will not stand behind him – we secretly prefer you to win.”