Note to Readers: This article is the follow-up to my Nation of Change piece “How the Rats Revolt: Targeting Democrats’ Electoral Extortion,” where I gave my take on the symbolism and overall strategy of a potential Rats’ Revolt. Here I explore the tactics needed to execute that strategy, focusing on why Democrats’ Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, as a high-powered, but low-profile Democrat “Teflon don,” would make a superb (though hardly exclusive) target for our movement’s “ratting out” tactics.
Tactical preliminaries: Effective movements must renounce “disgraceful civility”
Let’s start by examining a crucial point: why any political movement hoping to have impact – above all, to have revolutionary impact – must artfully dodge liberals’ well-laid trap of “disgraceful civility.”
Liberal is a degraded word, today reduced to meaning little more than “supporters of the Democratic Party.” But liberals (meaning Democrat supporters) hardly consider themselves as degraded as the word designating them; in a time of barbarous political discourse – above all, from Trump and his supporters – they proudly preen themselves on their “civility.”
Thus, for example, liberals love to quote their “classy” icon, former First Lady Michelle Obama, who said, “When they go low, we go high.” Which astute antiwar comedian George Carlin, were he alive today, would probably translate as “When they use ground troops, we use drones.” Civility, as we shall see, covers a multitude of sins.
Having a notorious crude side – as political comedians skewering official pomposity, hypocrisy, and lying inevitably must – Carlin would likely not have ended his icon-puncturing take down of “Lady Michelle” right there. It’s easy to imagine him adding, “What she really should have said was, ‘When they go low, we go down on them.’”
Much as liberal “civility” fans might now need defibrillators, Carlin would have been right. To any well-informed person with a functioning moral compass, it’s hard to imagine anything more degrading, anything less ladylike, than Michelle Obama’s obscene, obsequious public embrace of unrepentant war criminal George W. Bush. She could not have degraded herself more had she publicly “made like Monica Lewinsky” with every man present. Yet no Democrat – nor even Democrats’ outsider voice of progressive conscience Bernie Sanders – has had the moral compass and political courage to condemn her.
Michelle Obama did nothing less than lend her “classy” evening cloak of respectability to past atrocities, abetting our bipartisan political elite’s perpetual game of “disappearing” their most criminal, morally outrageous acts into our collective “memory hole.” Sins unrepented are sins repeated, and Michelle Obama’s “civility” to the reprehensible cretin Bush simply cements in place our mindless bipartisan commitment to endless, unjust, unspeakably costly, and climate-unfriendly U.S. militarism. It’s totally appropriate to speak in this context – and in the far larger one of U.S. politics generally – of “disgraceful civility.”
Disgraceful civility – undue politeness and (even worse) respectful silence toward corrupt, irresponsible, unaccountable “public servants” who scarcely merit the name – is an open-jawed trap waiting to snare progressive movements overly concerned about their respectability. Concerned, perhaps, because they rightly fear establishment Democrat media’s “smear machine” (see here and here). The same smear machine, by the way, that was brought heavily into play against Occupy Wall Street and so-called “Bernie Bro” Sanders supporters.
Warning example: How disgraceful civility snared today’s PPC
No contemporary movement has more pathetically – or more tragically, considering its humongous potential – succumbed to the “disgraceful civility” trap than today’s spineless, bloodless revival of Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign (PPC). If you read the banner of the PPC’s website (in the link I just supplied), you won’t see the “spineless” and “bloodless”; you’re likely to be duped – as I was – into seeing only the humongous potential. After all, what could be more relevant to contemporary activism than a potentially huge coalition – drawing instant respect and credibility by adopting the mantle of national hero King – dedicated to fighting King’s “triple evils” of poverty, racism, and militarism and oh so correctly updating them by including “environmental devastation” as a fourth evil? Climate justice activists like me could easily be forgiven for seeing in today’s PPC the de facto climate justice movement we were desperately seeking – only with a far better known and popular brand name than “climate justice.” And seizing the huge PR advantage of forming in the fiftieth anniversary year of King’s assassination to boot.
Sadly, American politics is currently so fake that we even have a fake Poor People’s Campaign. And what makes it so fake is precisely its respectable fear of denouncing the respectable fakery of Democrats’ political establishment. Hell will freeze over before you’ll ever hear today’s “anti-militarist” PPC denouncing Michelle Obama’s disgraceful embrace of war criminal Bush, as you’ve heard here. Or before the “anti-militarist, antipoverty, anti-racist” PPC denounces Democrats’ commitment to outrageous military spending for robbing the dark-skinned poor, as you’ll routinely read in Black Agenda Report (see here, for example). Denouncing the Democratic establishment’s respectable fakery is a guaranteed one-way ticket to political pariah status, as evidenced by my own lifetime ban (without explanation or recourse) from Facebook. Or by the totally unjustified smear of the courageous, principled leftists at Black Agenda Report as Kremlin agents.
It’s one thing to fear Republican’s ever more dangerous rejection of reason under Trump; Chris Hedges’ phrase “the cult of Trump” captures the matter splendidly. It’s quite another thing for a self-proclaimed moral movement, from fear of aiding Republicans (and doubtless from fear losing respectability with Democrats’ “fake Resistance” and their supporting smear media) to corrupt its own moral mission by practicing “disgraceful civility” toward Democrats’ most egregious moral infractions.
The PPC’s disgraceful civility toward Democrats is much like the code of silence (omerta) protecting the mafia. It says a lot about the extortion power of today’s Democratic Party (and its smear machine) that it can strong-arm even a revival of King’s PPC into its “mob.” Which brings us – at long last – to Chuck Schumer, Democrats’ low-profile “Teflon don.”
“Ratting out” Mob Boss Schumer: Breaking the Omerta of disgraceful civility
To any informed person with a moral compass – unfortunately, a minuscule minority of “woke” Americans – Democrat Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is himself a moral pariah. Most egregiously, he is virtually owned by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Schumer is AIPAC’s largest recipient of donations, and as is clear from Schumer’s policy commitments, AIPAC evidently gets enormous bang for their buck. This even includes Schumer’s taking extremist pro-Israel positions, such as applauding Trump’s internationally condemned decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem; in fact, Schumer even bragged that he advised Trump to declare Jerusalem Israel’s undivided capital. Further, Schumer made a fawning speech to AIPAC disregarding the human rights of Palestinians that even many fellow Jews stigmatized as “totally disgusting.” In perhaps his ultimate act of pro-Israel extremism, Schumer cosponsored a bill – condemned by the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights – that would unconstitutionally criminalize participation in boycotts against Israel.
As attentive readers might note, all of the Schumer infractions I cite relate, directly or indirectly, to Schumer’s support for Israeli violations of Palestinian rights. Bad as that is (especially when it drives Schumer to attack constitutionally protected protest), that’s hardly the worst dimension of Schumer’s “ownership” by AIPAC.
U.S. Middle East policy has long been a catastrophic, costly terrorism-spawning disaster, and it almost goes without saying that much of that policy aligns with the desires of the Israeli government. But even when Democrats have pushed back against Israel’s baneful influence on Middle East policy – as in Obama’s Iran deal – Schumer has reliably given Netanyahu his heart’s desire, even praising Netanyahu’s controversial speech before Congress. So when Democrats – on no discernible policy basis whatsoever – assert ad nausea that Trump is a Russian agent, why is there no parallel concern (from either Republicans or Democrats) that the nation’s most powerful Democrat is an Israeli one? Especially when the policy and “follow the money” evidence is consistent and compelling. Even if “Israeli agent” is an extreme charge, do we really want a man with such a pronounced policy-distorting pro-Israel bias anywhere near the most powerful post in the Democratic Party?
That these damning questions are never raised by anyone capable of holding Schumer accountable for his actions are what I mean by Schumer being a “Teflon don.” That no major media – or even Democrats’ supposed progressive opposition to the party establishment – dare raise these questions about Schumer are what make him a “low-profile” one. Disgraceful civility clearly reigns – especially when even a movement inspired by Martin Luther King shirks raising moral questions so essential to its aims. Which is why we need a Rats’ Revolt dedicated to “ratting out” the infractions of Schumer and his corrupt establishment Democrat ilk. And – with luck – to shame the PPC into doing its actual moral job.
Artful dodging: How we rat out Schumer while escaping Dems’ smear machine
So far, I’ve touched on the personal malfeasance for which a Rat’s Revolt might want to target Chuck Schumer, and I’ve scarcely exhausted that. Citing his corruption by Israel and AIPAC, I haven’t even mentioned his corruption by Wall Street and K Street (the lobbying industry). Obviously, as the most powerful Democrat, Schumer sets the tone for his party and is clearly able to twist arms in favor of his donors’ preferred policies.
Bad as having such a tool of special interests as the most powerful Democrat is, Schumer’s personal corruption is not the foremost reason he should be targeted by a Rats’ Revolt. Rather, just as a real-life don is responsible for what happens in his mob, “Teflon don” Schumer should be held responsible for the actual policies and behavior of the party he heads. (This applies as well to targeting other key members of the Dem leadership, such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez). For a movement, this amounts to tactical economizing, saving time and resources by laser-focusing its public actions on the party leaders. Lower-ranking Democrats (and perhaps especially Bernie Sanders) can be supported, or maligned, to the extent they support or oppose the movement against the party bosses.
While the Rats’ Revolt can raise subordinate issues as appropriate, the movement needs to remember that movements are at a sizable media disadvantage and get limited extremely limited time for messaging. Therefore, in confronting Schumer (or Pelosi or Perez), they should focus obsessively on the main question: “Why do you hold the Republican gun to humanity’s head while offering NOTHING to supporters of climate justice?” Or, “Why do you hold climate justice hostage to your party?’ Or, as is totally appropriate (given Schumer’s Jewish religious/cultural background), pointing to climate justice supporters everywhere as one people and saying, “Senator Schumer, let my people go.” This would be especially appropriate when demanding ranked-choice voting (as recommended in the last section of my previous piece).
“Climate justice” may be a strangely unfamiliar concept to use as a movement banner, but it seems absolutely essential to Rats’ Revolt success to raise the issue’s profile and rally behind it. This can’t be overemphasized for a movement that intends to get quite uncivil in ratting out establishment Democrats’ “respectable fakery” – respectable only because corporate media is in cahoots with the “Democrat mob” (and to some extent, the Republican one) in not bringing it to light. And in smearing all who dare publicly broach the unspoken conspiracy against the common good both parties have in common. When Republicans pillory Democrats, for example, it’s almost never for their militarism, love of illegal surveillance, or devotion to fracking. These critiques, now heard only on fringe leftist media, must come from a news-making movement devoted to climate justice. A movement that the Poor People’s Campaign, too concerned with looking respectable to get radical, has not even aspired to be.
Early in this essay, I spoke of “artfully dodging” liberals open-jawed trap of “disgraceful civility.” The cause of climate justice – as a sacred cause – is absolutely crucial to that artful dodging. A movement uncivilly challenging the likes of Chuck Schumer – perhaps to the uncivil extent of disrupting his public meals à al Scott Pruitt – is absolutely certain to get smeared. Perhaps even civility fan Bernie Sanders, in his own moment of disgraceful civility, might object to both our tactics and their Democratic Party targets. In such a movement, only having a sacred, desperate cause – like saving civilization from our oh so polite elites – might protect us. On man’s civility is another man’s mafia omerta.
Sanders, a pretty lame political revolutionary, seems to forget that revolutions once used bullets. By contrast, eminent theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, a huge fan of Gandhi’s peaceful civil disobedience and an influence on Martin Luther King, understood that peaceful underdog movements need to get coercive and disruptive. Sadly, today’s PPC – like Sanders – seems to have forgotten Niebuhr, Gandhi, and King.
Needless to say, the Rats’ Revolt should never pursue incivility for its own sake. It should be part of an escalating scale of attention getters for our message, perhaps starting with protests and attempts to arrange sit-downs – well covered by sympathetic leftist media – with Schumer and other movement targets. And when we do plan public incivility, we should be certain our sympathetic leftist media – crucial to our cause – are alerted well in advance.
In a two-party system where neither party gives “a rat’s ass” about climate justice, Americans who understand humanity’s climate emergency face quite an impasse. Simply voting for a climate justice party like the Greens is not a solution; even as solid a radical leftist as Paul Street has come to see the distasteful urgency of lesser-evil voting. In writing of “the cult of Trump,” Chris Hedges has pinpointed the intolerable nature of Republican evil: a party that has thrown reason overboard and become a cult is capable of any atrocity known to humankind. Spanish artist Goya’s engraving title couldn’t be more relevant: “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters.” Monsters must be kept from controlling our government.
Regrettably, American voters’ only alternative to monsters is mobsters: Democrat politicians who extort our votes by holding the gun of Republican monstrosity – especially monstrous climate change denial – to humanity’s head. All this, while themselves committed to policies (like warmongering and fracking) perversely at odds with the desperately short timetable of climate action. In this article and my previous one, I’ve offered a solution based on electing Democrats and then organizing a Rats’ Revolt to “rat out” their extortion scheme against climate justice and forcibly put an end to it.
If anyone has put forward a better scheme – one as fully rooted in the realities of our desperate political impasse – I have yet to hear it.