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C'mon RepublicansFlikrOuttaContextLUMPENPROLETARIAT—Economic journalist Doug Henwood was hosted by Against the Grain‘s Sasha Lilley to take the pulse of the USA’s right, which demands at least a passing read of the left.

This is a timely discussion, given the current talking points about the USA’s ruling class, the establishment, being at a loss with what to do about the loose cannon known as Donald Trump.  And pundits are wondering if the Republican Party might split apart this year.  There’s even at least one secretive meeting of ruling class elites, the Sea Island conference held annually by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, which was dominated by the question of how to best deal with Trump.

Those of us who expected the establishment’s first choice for the Republican presidential nomination Jeb Bush to have captured the conservative spotlight might be forgiven for having guessed wrong.  As Council On Foreign Relations expert, Dr. Laurence Schoup has recently noted, the establishment favourite doesn’t always win the spotlight.  Such has been the fate of Jeb Bush in 2016.

Yet, few of us could have imagined that Donald Trump’s brand of bigoted, racist, sexist demagoguery could have ever gained as much traction as it has.  But, when we consider how the often bigoted, racist, and sexist corporate media has disproportionately awarded Trump with airtime over his competitors, things become clearer.

To help make things even clearer, Doug Henwood offered us a broad survey of conservative politics in the USA, encouraging us to consider exactly who is the American right, what are its motives and drives, and what exactly middle class, working class, and poor Americans get out of identifying as conservative or voting for the Republican Party, the party of the rich and powerful.  Free speech radio has presented, here, a useful conversation about class, race (phenotype), ideology, power, governmentality, and how such socioeconomic forces shape the USA’s body politicListen (or download) here. [1]



[Official Against the Grain programme summary from the KPFA archive page]

AGAINST THE GRAIN—[7 MAR 2016]  The right is in great disarray these days, propelled by the unexpected popularity of Donald Trump. But its successes have been remarkable. As Doug Henwood points out, at mid-century the right was marginal in American politics — wildeyed Birchers wandering in the wilderness while the business class had firmly accommodated itself to the New Deal. Henwood reflects on the confluence of resentments and constituencies that fueled the rise of the right — and the ways that the left often misunderstands it. [2]

Learn more at AGAINST THE GRAIN.


[Partial transcript of actual radio broadcast by Messina for Lumpenproletariat and Against the Grain]

AGAINST THE GRAIN—[7 MAR 2016]  “Today, on Against the Grain:  The right is in great disarray these days, propelled by the unexpected popularity of presidential candidate Donald Trump.  But its successes have been remarkable.  As Doug Henwood points out, at mid-century the right was marginal in American politics—wild-eyed Birchers wandering the wilderness while the business class had firmly accommodated itself to the New Deal.  I’m Sasha Lilley.  Doug Henwood will join me to talk about the confluence of resentments and constituencies that fueled the rise of the right — and the ways that the left often misunderstands it.  That’s after these News Headlines with Aileen Alfandary.”  (c. 1:36)

[News Headlines omitted by scribe]

SASHA LILLEY:  “From the studios of KPFA in Berkeley, California, this is Against the Grain on Pacifica Radio.  I’m Sasha Lilley.

“The right has been on the march for at least the last four decades in the United States, fuelled by the grieved sense that the social gains of the past have been a disaster for Americans.  And, while the Republican establishment is in crisis right now, the right, as a movement, seems as energised as ever, despite the lack of substantial threats from the left, its typical foil.

“Today’s guest, Doug Henwood, was a youthful member of the right, before moving far to the left.  He’s reflected on the rise of the left in a new essay in the Socialist Register, where he traces the history and constituencies of the right, its elite backers, and rank-and-file members.

“He’s editor of the Left Business Observer and hosts the programme, Behind the News, on Pacifica Radio.

“So, Doug, if the right tends to surge, in opposition to threats from the left, how, then, should we understand the momentum of the right in recent years?” (c. 6:52)

DOUG HENWOOD:  “Yeah, well, I don’t fully understand it.  You know, Corey Robin had his book on the right with, largely, that thesis:  the right, sort of, parasitically, derives its energy from the energy from the left and appropriates a lot of its language and spirit of revolution, kind of like the Freudian superego derives power from the id.

“But, you know, there is absolutely no left insurgency visible, or, at least, until maybe fairly recently.  But the right has been on the march now for decades.  It seemed to me that they won a pretty definitive victory in the early 1980s, consolidated it in the 1990s.  But they haven’t stopped.

“The only thing, explanation, that makes any sense is that there’s still some residual aspects of the welfare state in the U.S.  They haven’t yet privatised social security and ended Medicare.  In Britain, we see the Cameron government trying to roll back a lot of the British welfare state and, maybe, moving to privatise the National Health Service.

“So, it seems like if they want a total and final victory.  That’s the only thing, that I can see as really pushing them with all the energy that they’ve got.

“But the fantasmic assertions, that you hear coming from the right, sometimes, are very bizarre.  You know all the claims about Obama being some sort of Kenyan socialist and a beraving anti-imperialist and all this business, on the verge of nationalising this and that.  It’s just fantastic.  I don’t know where they get these ideas.  But it seems it’s, perhaps, because Obama is not white, perhaps ‘cos he has an unusual name, by waspy standards.  But there does seem to be some fantasmic portion of it.

“But that’s come along with a remarkable intellectual devolution.  When I was in the right, briefly, in the early 1970s, we were intellectual snobs, and very proud of it.  To see what passes for discourse on the right now is just an appalling decline.  But they do have the energy. And they do have the power.” (c. 8:57)

[SNIP]  (c. 59:59)

[This transcript will be expanded as time constraints, and/or demand or resources, allow.]

Learn more at AGAINST THE GRAIN.


Related Lumpenproletariat articles, relevant to the 2015-2016 presidential campaigns:


[1]  Terrestrial radio transmission, 94.1 FM (KPFA, Berkeley, CA) with online simulcast and digital archiving:  Against the Grain, this episode hosted by Sasha Lilley, for Monday, 7 MAR 2016, 12:00 PDT.

For more details and higher-quality audio, visit againstthegrain.org.

This is an insightful and useful conversation for the most part.  However, a contradiction seems to arise in Doug Henwood‘s ultimate conclusion.  For all of the critique of the problems with the Democrat Party, and even pointing out that young people today are much more amenable to social democracy, socialism, and even communism, instead of perceiving within that fact the potential for young people to push for building alternative political organisations, as celebrated economist Dr. Richard Wolff has noted recently, i.e., alternative political parties, Doug Henwood can only see working within the status quo, within the two-party system, or two-party dictatorship.  Third-party politics and electoral reform are ignored.  Henwood’s vision of hope only seems to come in the form of finding a split within the Democrat Party, by which progressives can capture the Democrat Party from within.  Unfortunately, that strategy has failed for decades now, since at least the years of McCarthyism, when social democrats, socialists, and communists sought shelter within (or without) the Democratic Party.

[2]  Also see “The American Right: From Margins to Mainstream” by Doug Henwood, Socialist Register, 2016.


[10 MAR 2016]

[Last modified 12:48 PDT  10 MAR 2016]

[Image entitled “C’mon Republicans, Let’s Talk Ideology” by Flikr user Outta Context, licensed under Creative Commons]