Avoiding the advances of authoritarian government, corporate power, and climate breakdown

Avoiding the advances of authoritarian government, corporate power, and climate breakdown
Bob Sheak – October 10, 2019

We face multifaceted crises here in the US that require comprehensive, in some ways unprecedented, changes. The role played by mega corporations and large privately-owned businesses like Koch Industries is the major, far from only, source of all the crises focused on in this post. The climate crisis is connected to all parts of the society, especially the energy, transportation, agricultural, and military sectors, that spew large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and contribute to the accelerating, increasingly cataclysmic effects of a disrupted global climate. In the economy, as in other sectors, the chief culprit are the mega-corporations and privately owned giants like Koch Industries that dominate virtually all sectors of the economy, put profits before all other interests, and are a principal direct and indirect source of the climate crisis and of the rising inequalities in the US. The political crisis also involves the disproportionate influence of mega-corporations and big businesses on government policies, especially at the federal level, joined with the Republican Party and what I have called the Right-Wing Alliance in an earlier post (https://vitalissues.bobsheak.com/2019/08/10/analysis-of-and-progressive-alternatives-to-the-dead-end-policies-of-trump-and-the-right-wing-alliance).

In this case, the greatest threat is that our already tenuous democracy will be further weakened by the consolidation of Trump’s power over the federal government, in which case the climate crisis will be exacerbated , the economy will because further dominated by mega-corporations and the rich, a host of right-wing forces, and the society will become more unequal, with the rich and affluent continuing to prosper while the majority of Americans make little headway or worse. Another four years of Trump, if he is re-elected in 2020, will reduce the odds drastically that democracy can be saved and the crises besetting the society ameliorated.

If there is a pathway out of the crisis it is, in the final analysis, a political one that is based on a radical agenda, effective political organization, the efforts of progressive unions, social movements, strong grassroots organizing, small donors, and informed and active citizens from all walks of life. There is evidence that some of this is happening. The 2018 midterm elections and the Democratic ascendance in the US House of Representatives may be a harbinger of bigger victories to come in the 2020 elections – or not.

The crises we face

#1 The climate crisis. Humanity faces the looming scientifically-established probability that in a few decades, the manifold effects of accelerating climate disruption will reach levels that cannot be controlled or reversed. Ice is disappearing from the poles and glaciers. The oceans are warming, acidifying, being filled with plastic and other pollutants, all of which are having lethal effects on corals and aquatic life, fueling extreme storms, and gradually becoming an emitter of carbon rather than a “sink” that absorbs it. The availability of fertile soil and livable habitats is steadily being diminished by industrial agriculture and extractive industries, along with unregulated ranching and the continuing helter-skelter, high fossil-fuel-energy dependent growth of cities (see Ashley Dawson, Extreme Cities: The Peril and Promise of Urban Life in the Age of Climate Change). Drought, floods, and wildfires are forcing a growing mass of people to become refugees or, if they remain in place, face the need for massive government relief. In the US, the costs of such climate-related events keep rising, destroying homes and whole communities. These are conditions, already occurring in the tropical zones of Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa that generate desperation, increase religious and ethnic divisions, contribute to the rise of extremist groups and movement, and, in many cases, lead to violent conflict. (See Cristian Parenti, Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence). And with the increasing loss of viable, livable habitats, there is a mass species extinction underway, documented, for example, in Elizabeth Kolbert’s eye-opening book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. Kolbert writes:

“In an extinction event of our own making, what happens to us? One possibility…is that we, too, will eventually be undone by our ‘transformation of the ecological landscape…. [bearing in mind that] humans remain dependent on the earth’s biological and geochemical systems. By disrupting these systems – cutting down tropical rainforests, altering the composition of the atmosphere, acidifying the oceans – we’re putting our own survival in danger. Among the many lessons from the geological record, perhaps the most sobering is that in life, as in mutual funds, past performance is no guarantee of future results. When a mass extinction occurs, it takes out the weak and also lays low the strong…. The anthropologist Richard Leakey has warned that ‘Homo Sapiens might not only be the agent of the sixth extinction, but also risks being one of its victims’” (pp. 267-268).

#2 The economic crisis – This is reflected in the great and growing power of mega-corporations and the rich in the US who have a disproportionate influence on what is produced, how it is produced, where it is produced, who benefits or not from the process, along with massive sales efforts to keep consumers buying the products and services that stream from the economy. Through supply- and production-chains, the influence of such corporations extends to other countries, especially those offering cheap labor, low taxes, little regulation, natural resources for exploitation, markets, and other favorable conditions (e.g., see Intan Suwandi’s book, Value Chains: The New Economic Imperialism). Thus, the evidence is substantial. Mega-corporations have a significant, if not dominating, economic influence in most countries, and certainly in the US (e.g., David C. Korten’s When Corporations Rule the World, Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains).

Here’s what I wrote on corporate concentration in a post sent out on November 2, 2017, titled “Corporate dominance in the US economy.”

There is no doubt that we have a capitalist economy dominated by mega-corporations that measure their success by their profits and the value of their stocks compared to those of their domestic and foreign competitors. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a megacorporation as “a huge and powerful corporation.” You get some sense of the size of these corporations from the numbers generated each year by Fortune magazine in its “Fortune 500” list of the largest corporations in the economy. In the magazine’s most recent list for 2017, the magazine finds that “Fortune 500 companies represent two-thirds of the U.S. GDP [gross domestic product], $2 trillion in revenues, $890 billion in profits, and $19 trillion in market value, and employ 28.2 million people worldwide” (http://fortune.com/fortune500/list). The corporation with the most revenues in 2017 is Walmart, with $485.8 billion in revenues. The corporation with the most profits in 2017 is Apple, with $45.7 billion. The biggest corporations have more assets than most nations. According to Quora, there are 220 U.S. “firms” with revenues of $2 billion or more (https://www.quora.com/Forbes-400-How-many-companies-in-the-world-generate-over-US-1-billion-in-annual-revenue).

Here’s another way of thinking about the role played by mega-corporations. The domination of industry-specific markets by a few large corporations is defined as an oligopoly. In the U.S. economy, most industries are oligopolies. We have an economy in which virtually all industries and markets are dominated by a few mega-corporations. According to Wikipedia, “An oligopoly (from Ancient Greek ὀλίγος (olígos), meaning ‘few’, and πωλεῖν (polein), meaning ‘to sell’) is a market form wherein a market or industry is dominated by a small number of sellers (oligopolists). Oligopolies can result from various forms of collusion which reduce competition and lead to higher prices for consumers. Oligopoly has its own market structure.” Wikipedia continues: “With few sellers, each oligopolist is likely to be aware of the actions of the others. According to game theory, the decisions of one firm therefore influence and are influenced by decisions of other firms. Strategic planning by oligopolists needs to take into account the likely responses of the other market participants” (https://en/wikipedia/wiki/Oligopoly).

Tim Wu throws further light on this form of corporate concentration in an article for The New Yorker entitled “The Oligopoly Problem” (https://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/the-oligopoly-problem). He refers to Barry Lynn’s 2011 book Cornered “which carefully detailed the rising concentration and consolidation of nearly every American industry since the nineteen-eighties.” Lynn’s chief finding is that dominance by two or three firms “is not the exception but increasingly the rule.” Wu gives this example, among others: “while drugstores seem to offer unlimited choices in toothpaste, just two firms, Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive, control more than eighty percent of the market….” Wu argues that there should be more government regulation of such arrangements.

The wealth and power of the mega-corporations and the rich also results in a political system (taken up in the next section) that reflects their interests. But the grave problem is that their interests are not compatible with a sustainable environment, democracy, or justice, unless there are powerful enough countervailing forces to challenge their power and reign in their excesses. As it stands, there is soaring inequality within and between most societies, reaching unprecedented levels in the US. In this country, it is reflected as well in widespread job insecurity and low and stagnating wages, a for-profit health care system that fails to provide coverage of tens of millions of people and that profits when insurance claims are denied (https://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/08/30/health-care-reformer-wendell-potter-profit-system-unraveling). There are as well great disparities in housing, education, and other institutional sectors of the society. Author Anand Giridharadas captures one crucial dimension of the problem as follows:

“When the fruits of change have fallen on the United States in recent decades, the very fortunate have basketed almost all of them. For instance, the average pre-tax income of the top tenth has doubled since 1980, that of the top 1 percent has more than tripled, and that of the top 0.001 percent has risen more than sevenfold – even as the average pretax income of the bottom half of Americans has stayed almost precisely the same” (Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, p. 4).

#3 The political crisis. An alliance of rightwing forces, most importantly the mega-corporations and the rich, marshal major resources and votes to dominate government to the detriment of ordinary people. The US government, especially involving the Republican Party, is dominated by mega-corporations and by the rich and their well-funded networks of think tanks, lobbyists, right-wing campaign contributors, trade associations, the wholesale use of strategically placed political ads during elections, highly organized and funded grassroots mobilization efforts, and lavish spending to oppose any political initiatives in the states that threaten the interests of mega-corporations. There are various responses to this situation from the center-left and from Democrats. One of the challenges is whether a unified and effective political response can be forged out of the multiplicity of interests on the anti-right side of the political spectrum, one that is able to win the support of a majority of voters.

#4 The corrupting, dangerous, anti-democratic effects of the Trump presidency With the support of what I’ve called the “right-wing alliance,” Trump’s policies, appointments, xenophobia, and fear-mongering rhetoric, has undermined our already tenuous democracy. If Trump wins in 2020, democracy will be fatally eclipsed, the climate crisis will be accelerated, and the economy will become even more concentrated in a few corporations, with billionaires taking an ever-greater share of wealth. Such trends will take us toward something like the vision of billionaires Charles and David Koch, as documented in Christopher Leonard’s book, Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America, that is, a vision of an economy dominated by mega-corporations. They want a limited government that favors the rich and powerful, all but eliminates federal taxes, gives them a free hand in dealing with their employees, and gives them the opportunity to have virtually total and free access to public land and resources, Theirs is a vision in which there are no viable unions, where public and social insurance programs receive little government support, and where government pays little or no attention to the climate crisis, while there are opportunities to engage in unregulated business practices that generate harmful environmental effects (called “externalities) without being penalized.

The sheer breadth of what Trump has done to us

Here is a long but incomplete list of Trump’s contributions to the undermining of the environment, democracy, fairness, and security in the US. (If you have the time, please add to the list.)

• His lies flow from his mouth in an unending torrent of tweets and various often spur-of-the-moment public statements. The most recent count of Trump’s false and misleading statements by the Washington Post has it at 12,019 through early August of this year (2019) (https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/trumps-claims-database).
• His behavior is, according to psychiatrists and other professionals, indicates he has malicious narcissistic personality, in which what counts most to him is winning, regardless of the consequences. His erratic behavior is of particular concern in all areas, but one is especially worrisome, that is, he has the authority to order the launch of nuclear weapons whenever he chooses. Recall that he has threatened to use nuclear weapons on North Korea and Iran (e.g., his “fire and fury” statements), and has asked publicly why, with the huge nuclear bomb stockpile the US already has, the US doesn’t use them. The problem of Trump’s mental state and nuclear weapons is taken up by psychiatrists, psychologists and other psychological professionals in the book edited by John Gartner, Steven Buser & Leonard Cruz titled Rocket Man: Nuclear Madness and the Mind of Donald Trump. (Note also that Trump has unilaterally withdrawn from the multilateral treaty with Iran to keep that country from developing the capacity to build nuclear weapons, although Iranian leaders have never expressed a desire to do so and international inspectors never found violations.)
• He has withdrawn from the intermediate nuclear weapons treaty with Russia, setting in motion the increasingly probably start of a new Cold War.
• He wants to increase government funding for the modernization of the US nuclear bomb arsenal, going beyond what Obama proposed.
• He is authorizing the creation of another branch of the military services called the Space Force, making outer space another area of conflict.
• Like other authoritarian leaders, he loves to rant and rave at the rallies of his adoring supporters, where he stokes their white nationalist, anti-immigrant, pro-gun, anti-Islam, and other negative stereotypes and prejudices
• Likewise, in the authoritarian mode, he loves the idea of being the commander in chief of vast military forces and craves to have huge military parades in Washington, D.C. over which he would preside.
• He has “only kind words for Vladimir Putin, and even effusively embraced North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines” (Robert Kuttner, The Stakes: 2020 and the Survival of American Democracy, 53).
• His foreign policy revolves significantly around military threats, economic sanctions, and threats to withdraw American aid.
• He disdains the United Nations and wants American’s foreign policy to revolve around “America First” principles and a complex series of bilateral military and trade agreements shaped by the rich and powerful.
• He advances his policies frequently through executive orders, attempting to govern by decree. Executive orders allow the president to bypass Congress, sometimes as a matter of little general import (e.g., “Delegation of authority to Approve Certain Military Decorations,” April 20, 2018) and in other instances to order actions that have great import and that the Congress might want to consider (e.g., “Providing for the Closing of Executive Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government on December 24, 2018”). (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_executive_orders_by_Donald_Trump).
• He has filled or is filling key cabinet positions and positions in federal agencies with people who will do his bidding, often appointing them to “acting or temporary” positions” that make it easy for him to remove them if they prove to be slightly uncompliant. Check out John Nichols book, Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse: A Field Guide to The Most Dangerous People in America.
• He uses his office to discredit and demean his political opponents. Although the story is ongoing, there is evidence that he and/or key associates were involved in encouraging Russia and perhaps other countries to release scurrilous information against Hillary Clinton in 2016 that negatively affected her presidential campaign. Kuttner writes in his new book, The Stakes: 2020 and Survival of American Democracy: “Not only did Russian intelligence hack and leak embarrassing private emails of Clinton’s campaign staff; the Russians timed the leaks to deliberately upstage the most potentially damaging revelation about Trump: the tape of his comment that he could grab women ‘by the pussy’” (54). There are now new revelations in August and September of 2019 that he and/or key associates have tried to push the Ukrainian President to dig up unfavorable information on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden during the current election process leading up to 2020. The US House has launched an impeachment inquiry into Trump’s actions, the first step in the impeachment process. There are several recently published books that help a reader understand the history and legal procedures of impeachment. (e.g., Former US Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman’s book, The Case for Impeaching Trump).
• Trump wants a government shrouded in secrecy, as reflected in his seeming rejection of the whistleblower statues, calling a recent whistleblower a spy and a traitor who deserves a death sentence.
• He has from the start of his presidency used the power of his office and personal lawyers to ensure that his tax records would not be released to the Congress and public, raising the suspicion that he has less wealth than he has claimed and/or that information reveal how he is indebted to Russian oligarchs or other nefarious sources. According to Kuttner, “Russians with close ties to the Kremlin have long financed Trump’s businesses when he could not get any other funding.”
• He and his family seem to be profiting from his presidency. Here are some examples of what Kuttner finds in the public record. “Russians with close ties to the Kremlin have long financed Trump’s businesses when he could not get any other funding.” “The Chinese did special favors to cut red tape so that Trump’s daughter could obtain patent and trademark benefits, granting Trump family businesses thirty-eight special trademarks in all.” “The Saudis have extensive business dealings with son-in-law Jared Kushner.”
• He intimidates Republicans in Congress, who mostly follow his initiatives out of fear that he will use his tweets and mobilize his base against them when they run for re-election.
• He likes the role Mitch McConnell plays in the Senate, as the Senate majority leader refuses to send most bills that come from the House onto Senate committees for review and then for votes on the Senate floor. McConnel has said that he will block House-supported bills unless the President first approves them.
• He fully supports the fossil fuel industries and has little interest in renewables, energy efficiency, conservation, or the preservation of public parks and forests
• He is trying to reverse and obliterate the fuel efficiency standards enacted into law under the Obama administration.
• He advances policies that mostly play to the corporate and wealthy wings of his support – tax cuts, deregulation, privatization, subsidies, lucrative contracts.
• He doesn’t like government regulation, unless it benefits businesses and the rich.
• He has advanced policies to serve his right-wing base – on abortion, immigration, gun regulation, charter schools….
• He wants a highly exclusionary immigration policy and has set his sights on achieving something like a “fortress America,” closed in by impenetrable walls and advanced security features. Recent new reports say he has mused outloud about that migrants to the southern border might be gunned down, or at least shot in the legs.
• He is loading the federal judiciary with conservative judges and has already filled openings on the Supreme Court with dependable “conservative” justices, which especially delights the evangelical wing of his core constituencies. They want an end to abortion, support for “Christian” schools, and a re-ascendance of Christianity in US culture, disregarding the constitutional mandate of the separation of religion from the state. (This story is told in detail by Jeff Sharlet in his book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.)
• He continuously denigrates the media for producing fake news, calls reporters the enemy of the people, and has lauded FoxNews for its supportive coverage of him. He has also said that he would love to have a major news network of his own that always support his positions.
• He has shown sympathy toward white nationalists/supremacists, and they have become not only a part of his core support but also represent a potentially violent threat to those who dissent or are identified as “different.” Bear in mind his exhortations in praise of violence at many of his rallies.
• Trump has said that if there is a national emergency before the 2020 elections, he would consider postponing the presidential election.
• He has said that he would like to be president for life.

What if Trump wins in 2020?

If the Democrats fail to unseat Trump in 2020, there will be decisive turn toward authoritarian government and a further decline of democracy. And, most assuredly, a Trump White House will more than ever serve the interests of corporations, the rich, and bring the country an increasingly authoritarian presidency, an even more compliant US Congress, an even more right-wing biased Supreme Court and federal judiciary, while multiple right-wing interests will be advanced, including those who favor white supremacy, fundamentalist Christian beliefs, an exclusionary nationalism, maximum gun rights, and the end of reproductive rights. There will be a further evisceration of environmental regulations and unbridled support of fossil fuels, subsidies for industrial agriculture, and policies that already exacerbate the cataclysmic climate crisis. Along with all this, you can count on more military spending, more wars, a heightened threat of nuclear war, the end of privacy, and a return to a Hoover-like FBI.

And in this dystopian but unfortunately plausible scenario, the mega-corporations will reap the biggest benefits. Consider some examples of what the government already does for the corporate-dominated private sector of the economy. The benefits are vast, including: government contracts and subsidies (e.g., very profitable military contracts); beneficial regulations (e.g., no anti-trust enforcement); opportunities to profit from public property and resources (e.g., mining, timbering, and ranching in national forests and elsewhere); doing the basic research on products and then giving them to corporations (e.g., the Internet, the iPhone, drugs); regressive, federal income taxes, with innumerable loopholes; anti-union policies (e.g., right to work laws); and the privatization of any potentially profitable government functions (e.g., for-profit prisons and detention facilities, charter schools, highly-paid private contractors hired by the Pentagon and intelligence services); and the protection of their property by taxpayer funded police and fire departments.

Who loses and will lose even more if Trump has a second term? Many of us. Here are a few examples. The children who end up in under-funded and under-resourced schools and who previously had no pre-school learning opportunities. The teachers who have low salaries, large classes, work in old buildings that have no school counselors or psychologists and no library and wellness facilities. The school children who will go to schools fearing for the lives in a context in which assault weapons are readily available. The children and families who are food insecure or who live in substandard housing or in communities like Flint Michigan and thousands of other communities where the water is unsafe to drink because of contaminated water or old lead pipes that leach into the drinking water. The students who are left after leaving college with large debt. The workers who can’t find work at all, who are in low-paid, insecure jobs, who work in non-union jobs under oppressive management in which wages don’t keep up with productivity or rising prices. The workers who cannot retire because they don’t have a pension and must continue working, often in low-wage jobs, well into their seventies and eighties. The 80 million plus people who don’t have health insurance or are under-insured, along with those who cannot afford to use the insurance they have because of the high premiums and copays. If Trump wins in 2020, those with pre-existing conditions may not be able to get health insurance at all. The women who want an abortion but can’t find an affordable clinic or professional provider. The minority citizens who continue to experience disproportionately from institutional discrimination and voter suppression. And how all of us are increasingly affected by the unabated climate crisis.

Still, there are promising indications

(I draw again from Kuttner’s book.)

Democrats had a partial electoral win in the 2018 midterm elections

Democratic candidates, many progressive, did well in the 2018 midterm elections. Kuttner points out that “miraculously” the Democrats flipped 40 Republican seats to become the majority in the House,” “…took 7 governorships (raising total to 23),” “…won 360 state legislative seats from Republicans,” “increased the number of states where they held not only the governor but both legislative chambers from 7 to 14 (Republican trifecta control fell to 21 states).” Democrats benefited from a high turnout rate of 49.2 percent of eligible voters, which “was the highest in any midterm in over a century,” and involved 116 million votes in 2018 compared to 83 million in the previous 2014 midterm (102-103). “In addition to the 40 Democrats who flipped Republican House seats, another 42 Democrats lost by just 8 points or less” (108)

A massive mobilization

It resulted from a massive infrastructure of citizen organizing, fund raising, and voter mobilization on the progressive side (127). There was “extensive on-the-ground-work by dozens of groups like Indivisible,” a loose federation of grassroots organizations involving 6,000 groups (104). Indivisible was started by two former Democratic staffers, Ezra Levin and Leah Greenberg, a married couple, who wrote a playbook that went viral (104). The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is the official House Democratic fundraising body for candidates, launched a Red to Blue project aimed at flipping Republican seats, endorsed 104 candidates, mostly challengers (105).

“These efforts combined with ‘a great deal of small-money fundraising by candidates and their supporters, meant that Democrats were financially competitive’” (105). “Act Blue, the umbrella groups for small-money Democratic donors, raised an astonishing $1.6 billion for all races, federal, state, and local” – average donation was $39.67.” “House Democrats in the general election collected nearly $296 million in small donations, more than three time the $85 million collected by Republicans.” “All told, Democratic House candidates raised $923 million in the 2017-2018 election cycle, compared to the Republican’s $612 million… (105). In the Senate, Democrats raised $504 million to the Republicans $396 million.” One caveat. These figures do not include the independent political spending of “the Koch Brothers and other sources of immense independent-expenditure funding. But, when all is said and done, the funding from right-wing sources “was swamped by volunteer grassroots organizing, much of it from women (106).

Focused on pocketbook such as health care, Social Security, decent wages, and education (7).

This is exemplified by the victory of Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who “won reelection in 2018 by a margin of 6 points, [while]]other Democratic candidates in Ohio lost (8). “About two-thirds of the Democrats who flipped Republican seats won as pocketbook populists, supporting either Medicare for All or Medicare at age fifty-five, expanded Social Security benefits, controls on prescription drug prices, a higher minimum wage, and relief of college debt” (163). The Republican attacks on the public schools is another issue of broad concern for communities across the country.

Indications that more voters who moving in a liberal direction politically

• “the percentage of Democrats who now identify as liberal rather than moderate has risen steadily in the past decade. By 2018 more than half of all Democrats considered themselves liberal” (182)
• “a large majority of Democrats are substantively progressive on the issues.” For example: “Fully 70 percent support Medicare for all – a figure that includes 82 percent of self-identified Democrats and even 52 percent of Republicans, as a well as a majority of independents”
• “Large majorities also support making higher education debt-free.”
• “Pew found that 58 percent of Americans supported a $15 minimum wage.”
• “According to Gallup, 62 percent of Americans approve of unions – a fifteen year high” – and found “broad majority support for a large infrastructure program” (182).

Concluding thoughts

In the final analysis, any chance of ousting Trump and having Democrats take control of both houses of the US Congress will be the result of a confluence of factors. For example, large numbers of people on the independent/liberal/lift parts of the political spectrum will have to be unified in support of candidates who have progressive ideas and advance platforms that deal with the big picture challenges of climate disruption and concentrated economic power as well as issues that are of immediate and practice concern of voters. The Democratic presidential nominee must be a person who can beat Trump in debates and who has the experience, intelligence, energy, quickness of mind, and toughness to sustain many months of campaigning. This person must have the support of the emboldened Democratic Party and others who see the need for transformative changes. This candidate will need a nation-wide organization of staff and volunteers to reach out to tens of millions of Americans, promote an agenda that meaningfully addresses the climate, economic, and political crises, all the while educating and energizing the public, registering the unregistered voters, raising many millions of dollars from small donors, challenging violations of voting laws when they are identified, and getting voters to the polls on election day.

It remains to be seen whether Democratic candidates running for office will have the vision, courage, and support to call for such changes. It remains to be seen whether a majority of citizens will go along with calls for large systemic changes if they are offered as options. Many Americans understandably just want to see improved opportunities for jobs, a higher minimum wage, access to decent schools for their children, affordable and safe housing, affordable health care, affordable prescription drugs, progress on ending racial, gender, and other types of discrimination, and focus on the immediate challenges they face. The argument in this post is that they will not be forthcoming without systemic changes.

Rather, as the thrust of the argument indicates, there is a need for big systemic changes and not much time left to avoid climate catastrophe, an economy that increasingly works more and more for the benefits of the rich and powerful, and a political system in which democracy is steadily being eclipsed by those with great power and wealth. Muddling through by hoping for and sometimes getting incremental change will not reverse the large trends that are unfolding. In the best of eventualities, progressive Democrats and others will be able to build on the momentum of 2018 and, in 2020, reverse the right-wing forces that are pushing the US toward an authoritarian government, environmental chaos, and greater inequality.

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