“Barracuda business class” vs. democracy

It’s November 5, the day before the 2012 presidential election. If polling guru Nate Silver is right, President Obama will win his second term. But if he doesn’t, University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole has some interesting—actually downright scary—thoughts about what a Romney presidency would bring.

In short, Cole says Romney would steer us towards a capitalist dictatorship—an updated, high tech, 21st century form of fascism—that would privilege corporate interests over everything else.  Here’s what Cole, writing at Alternet, has to say about fascism 2.0:

Capitalist dictatorship has many similarities to fascism, but differs from it in lionizing not the workers of the nation but the entrepreneurs of the nation. Fascism seeks a mixed economy, whereas capitalist dictatorship privileges the corporate sector and attacks the non-military public sector. But both try to subsume class conflict under a hyper-nationalism. Both glorify military strength and pick fights with other countries to whip up nationalist fervor. Both disallow unions, collective bargaining and workers’ strikes. Both typically privilege one ethnic group within the nation, marking it as superior and setting up a racial hierarchy.

Sound familiar? Sounds like the platform of the current Republican Party, which has two parts: a) enact policies that will enrich the already rich, and b) suppress the vote among likely Democratic voters: the poor, the elderly, students and people of color. Sounds like the politics of Wisconsin Republican Governor Walker, who with the help of his benefactors, the billionaire Koch Brothers, destroyed the state’s public unions. Sounds like Mitt Romney and his plans to bloat the military budget so we can get back to conducting two wars at the same time. And re: disdain for democracy, Romney’s compulsive lying speaks volumes.

One big difference between capitalist democracy (as in contemporary Germany and France) and capitalist dictatorship is the willingness of the business classes to play by the rules of democratic elections, to allow a free, fair and transparent contest, to acknowledge the rights of unions, and to respect the universal franchise. Businessmen in such a society share a civic ethic that sees these goods as necessary for a well-ordered society, and therefore as ultimately good for business. They may also be afraid of the social disruptions (as in France) that would attend any attempt to whittle away workers’ rights. Attempts to limit the franchise, to ban unions, and to manipulate the electorate with bald-faced lies are all signs of a barracuda business class that secretly seeks its class interests above all others in society, and which is not afraid of workers and middle classes because the latter are apolitical, apathetic and disorganized.

Romney, vulture capitalist extraordinaire, is indeed, a member of the “barracuda business class.” And, what Cole says is painfully true: we workers, and members of the middle class are “apolitical, apathetic and disorganized.” After the frenzy of the election, political participation among most of us will drop down to practically nothing. Meanwhile, the right wing and the barracuda business class it supports never sleeps.

Whether Romney or Obama wins, what Cole describes is already happening. A significant part of the business class in the United States is voting for Romney because they want him to head up a capitalist dictatorship. Those who are not as well off, who vote against their economic interests, have been manipulated and duped into doing so.

For decades, big money has dominated politics in Washington DC and in State Houses across the nation seriously undermining the democratic process. It’s absurd that under both Democrats and Republicans corporate lobbyists write legislation. It’s absurd that ALEC, an organization funded by corporations, churns out a thousand right wing model bills per year for the express purpose of promoting corporate interests at the state level.

Cole is right: a Romney presidency, indeed any Republican presidency, would fast track us to a capitalist dictatorship. On the other hand, a second Obama term has the potential to stop this dangerous trend and restore democracy. If he is reelected, and I hope he will be, restoring democracy will require that he flush out the corporate/Wall Street influence from his inner circle, and begin to work with, and support, progressives in the House and Senate.