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How Sanders Exposes the Demoractic Establishment's Neoliberal Underbelly


How Sanders Exposes the Demoractic Establishment's Neoliberal Underbelly

Aisling O’Donnell

On Friday April 2nd, President Obama observed, in a gently scolding tone, that “people pay attention to American elections”, and indeed they do. The pantomime-like atmosphere of US Presidential campaigns has a frenetic and transfixing appeal, as do the gaffs and quips and dressing downs generally, but there is more to the drawing in of international bystanders than entertainment.


"Who needs republicans when [progressives] have friends like [the corporate media and establishment democrats]?" Indeed.


Interesting and thought-provoking piece; I am puzzled with the juxtaposing of 'progressive' to 'leftist' though. They must mean something different in (the author's) Australia; in my English language, they are similar, not opposites. Certainly, it has been stated many times by writers in CD that HRC is not a progressive, she is a neo-liberal, and even a neo-con regarding war and intervention.


A liberal would be a Paul Krugman and a progressive would to the left of him like Susan Sarandon and a leftist would be to the left of a progressive like a socialist.


"...democracy's finest hour" Feel the Bern!


Neoliberalism, is a difficult word to grip. My working definition is that it is a strategy to convert the commons, political and natural, into private capital so that it can be traded by those who have the capital to participate in the market they've created.


who needs Republicans when you have friends like that?<

Friends? FRIENDS?? With the likes of HRC??? Watch what you're saying, woman.


I disagree with you and Ms. O'Donnell.

The "Republicanization" of both parties, and with respect to the Democratic Party, the DLC (Democratic Leadership Council) in particular, should be identified for what it is: the gravity imposed by Big Money and how in today's electoral status quo (where everything requires enormous sums OF money) candidates must curry favor from their deep pocket donors by promising to fulfill what they desire.

The maligning of Progressives is sheer idiocy.

THIS Progressive is anti-war, in favor of a higher minimum wage, attuned to the reality that Black Lives Matter, a supporter of women's right to choose (sovereignty over their own bodies, for Goddess' sake), a supporter of "Dreamers," an opponent of Citizens' United, an opponent of Charter Schools (and the deliberate plan they represent insofar as underfunding public schools), an advocate for the EPA, and other positions.

Just because a politician shows clemency towards gays hardly makes them a Progressive!

I've stated this before: There should be forms that include the top 30 issues confronting our nation and the world in general. Each form should have 5 circles in keeping with those business surveys starting with "do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, strongly disagree, don't know."

THEN, from the positions stated, a computer tabulates the CANDIDATE who resonates (and represents) THOSE stances.

There's been so much effort directed at damning and demonizing Liberals, and now the trend is moving to do likewise to Progressives; and there IS no clear definition for what the Left (inside the U.S.) means or represents.

It's no coincidence that Ms. O'Donnell is affiliated with a Catholic entity. Most Catholics ARE quite conservative, particularly when it comes to the matter of women's right to control their own destiny... via their biological reality!

So rather than endorse the FRAME that insists that Progressives are Republican-lite, it's time to challenge it.

Neo-liberals are not liberals, and liberals are typically more conservative than Progressives.

Since these labels have been so badly damaged (and tallied with), the wisest measure of voters' true positions goes back to the ISSUES FORM/FORMAT that I earlier mentioned.


I really HATE when posters use this "argument." And it certainly is used all the time. In fact, it's one of the reasons I am convinced this forum is embedded; nor is it my imagination (quite a few posters DID come clean on this) that old C.D. "regulars" tout this (and other) line of thought and then change their screen name to do likewise.

A lot of men are so inwardly sexist (and misogynistic) that they really do not want partnership with women or the type of society that would be represented by gender parity: i.e. REAL partnership between men and women.

Men are accustomed to leading, to directing traffic, to acting as authority figures, and to telling women WHAT to do. It's almost reflexive in the vast majority of men.

That's why they pull out the argument that the VERY FEW women who've attained power & status in patriarchal societies "act just like men." And from this "conclusive evidence," they then assert that there is no difference.

This ridiculously superficial stance avoids the slightest understanding of what patriarchy means and how long and deeply it's conditioned BOTH genders. If people get rewarded for being aggressive, then those who can show aggression will rise.

Aggression IS more natural to men for lots of reasons, a few of which stem from direct biology. Others stem from LONG cultural rites of conditioning.

Last night I watched a movie that's based on a true story. A very attractive woman married a cop who turned out to be incredibly abusive. He knew that if she sought help--via the local police department--that the other police would protect him. And they did. When she tried to get help, they said it was a personal problem. In other words, they offered NO help.

Eventually, she hired someone to kill him and she got 40 years for it. At the conclusion of the film, the narrator explains (and this IS documented), that typically women get 20 years or more for killing (or hiring someone to kill) their spouses while men typically get 6-10 years.

Another instance of how patriarchy protects MEN and THER aggression but punishes women for using any form of aggression to protect themselves is the case of the Florida woman abused by her husband. She had a restraining order that he violated; and when he showed up and began attacking her, all she did was fire a WARNING SHOT. And she was incarcerated with the prosecutor seeking a ridiculously long sentence.

But idiot boy George Zimmerman gets to play local vigilante and actually KILL someone (young Travor Martin), and he walks scot-free for standing HIS ground.

Society is run by males. The FACT that a few females are let in--largely as tokenism--does not change the structure. This means THE SYSTEM self-selects those willing to adopt to it.

Do you see Jill Stein who actually opposes war anywhere on the public's radar? How about Dr. Flowers fighting for REAL health CARE?

The MANY women who lead all sorts of organizations that represent Peace, Justice, Ecological Sustainability, Family Planning, etc. are NOT given the sorts of positions of authority that could actually change the status quo that for centuries has favored war/aggression (Mars rules) along with its economic counterpart (class war/capitalism of the rabid sort).

Yes! It would matter a lot if women who represent genuine women's interests and express the counterbalancing/complementary ESSENCE that the Feminine SIDE of Creation represents held EQUAL status, EQUAL voice, EQUAL representation, EQUAL access, and EQUAL resources.

Until then, just like Blacks who march lockstep with the mores of the White (male) Establishment, any females who make it to the top of the food chain will likewise show deference to the existing Power Structure. Hillary is a prime example and so are the FEW persons (Maggie Thatcher, Susan/Condi Rice, Samantha Powers) who are touted out by you and your CLONES.

And one more thing: When Gandhi was asked what he thought of Western CIVILization, he answered that it (becoming civilized) would be a good idea.

In parallel, until such time that women DO hold equal representative power with men on ALL decision-making boards, cease and desist from making falsely conclusive statements about WHAT the world would look & be like if genuine equality WERE the case and fully in place.

YOUR speculations are profoundly prejudicial and premature.


Oh, of course Hillary Clinton is a pioneer. Damn my numbly male soul to have missed that. What should we call her field of exploration and settlement, "Oppressive While Female"? "The struggle for equal abuse of privilege"?

Come, now. Let us not overrun our p's with our q's. Just because men have done something does not make it a right, nor even a good idea.

Why tar the term pioneer with the likes of Hillary Clinton? Could this refer to the genocide of the American Natives?

I would recommend publishing again something like Rosario Dawson's recent open letter to Dolores Huerta, but I must bow to the truth: one does not find such a thing on one's desk every day.


In Australia, the Liberal Party is right-wing.

EDIT: i'm reminded reading today's story about Obama and Abe's Orwellian pilgrimage to Hiroshima, as Japan continues to militarize and the USA illegally upgrades its nuclear arsenal:

The leading political party in Japan for decades is the Liberal Democratic Party. That certainly does not mean "liberal" in the way some people in the USA use the word, or "democratic" in any way dedicated to actual democracy (nor, obviously, is the Democratic Party in the USA).

Quite a number of participants here at Common Dreams like to INSIST that all these words - progressive, liberal, neoliberal, left - mean exactly what they insist they mean. But clearly, these terms are contested, and legitimately mean different things to different people in different contexts.

From the article:
"The depth of Clinton’s contempt for Sanders has had a deeply destabilising effect, allowing a space for the full articulation of long held suspicions about the extent to which the ideological differences between leftists and progressives are reconcilable to surface. Since the 1990s, progressives have increasingly focussed their egalitarian spirit towards issues like marriage equality and the gender pay gap; the social justice concerns of the upwardly mobile. Of course in questions of identity politics these issues are as good as any other, but they do not a complete worldview, nor a presidential platform make. The contradiction that the Sanders campaign has forced into the arena is that, if you are more or less a neoliberal, you can ill afford to scrutinise too rigorously broad-based questions of economic justice. The problem is what it has always been, class. Yet instead of getting down in the trenches and grappling with it, Clintonites have gone on the offensive, levelling all manner of accusations at Sanders advocates. They are privileged, they are white, they are young, they are single issue, they are not playing the long game, they are impractical, they are irresponsible, they do not understand realpolitik and they absolutely cannot do math. This commentary has been so shot through with condescension, disregard, and a general tone (pardon the pun), that it could be construed as an attempt to filibuster a way to the start line. I mean, who needs Republicans when you have friends like that? These allegations however have not dampened the mutinous spirit. Sanders is still in the race and he is gaining momentum, stretching even longer the distance between leftists and progressives that at some point will need to be bridged or abandoned."

  • It seems clear that by "left" she means "class-based," seeking to restructure the economy to empower the working class and disempower capital.
  • Then by "progressive" she means NOT class-based, but instead focused on various forms of identity politics WITHIN the existing capitalist economic structure.
  • She does not use the term "liberal" because the Liberals in Australia are plainly a right-wing, pro-capital party that has nothing to do with anything either left or progressive.
  • And by "neoliberal" she means the international understanding of the term, the resurgence of transnational capital under the guise of globalization, pushing classic "liberal" economic reforms of opening the economy to "investment," amped up by the ideology embedded in post-modern "trade" agreements that grant new "rights" to capital above the rights of nation states.


In Australia, the Liberal Party is right-wing.

The writer is writing for an Australian audience. She is using words in ways that make sense to her, and to her readers, in her context.

She's certainly not writing to meet US word definitions.


SR, I've gotta disagree with you on this one. Wicklund's main point is similar to something I also realized when I was younger. I used to vote for women candidates just because they were women until I realized I was voting for people who held positions opposed to mine. Why vote for a woman who opposes abortions?

And wicklund's closing remarks seem like the kinds of things you've been saying for years.


My mom voted for Shirley Chisolm in 1972!


Decent stab. It is a hard term to pin down because, like most "buzzwords", this one has been used to mean whatever people wanted it to mean for a period of years now. It's like the persistent conflation of corporatism as a discreet theory with fascism, simply because a crappy Italian translation of Mussolini used the term. That's largely a function of people not being well-versed in political philosophy, which is no shame. Although I wish people would stop making crap up.

Your definition is closer to a general definition of capitalism, IMO. Neoliberalism, I think, is best understood (and most easily understood) as the process of internationalizing traditional MIllian/classical liberal thought on individual freedom. In short, capitalism traditionally has been seen in a national context--a system of market and resource exploitation that was done by countries. The neo- part is where this traditional view merges with the internationalist view of classical socialism, which is that no economic theory can reach full flower until it dominates the entire planet. This is why there is so much warfare associated with it.

It really is basically the transition of classical liberalism to an international governing architecture, and everything we associate with it--trade agreements, resource wars, financial manipulations and conflicts--all point to a conscious attempt to standardize the economy of the planet under one banner.


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That is a very good definition. And the 'governing architecture' I would say are institutions like the World Bank, IFC, Inter-American Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, African Development Bank, Ex-Im Bank, USAID, private foundations and NGO's, that serve the interests of the private sector under the auspices of foreign aid.


.... and NATO, the Council on Foreign Relations, Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, etc,, etc, etc

.... all of them elements of the neolib/neocon combine


It seems to me that Ms. O'Donnell's analysis is spot-on. She got to the heart of it when she wrote:

The contradiction that the Sanders campaign has forced into the arena is that, if you are more or less a neoliberal, you can ill afford to scrutinise too rigorously broad-based questions of economic justice. (emphasis added)

To put it another way: Now that neoliberal economic reality has gotten so grim, how is a Wall Street insider supposed to be able to appeal to the masses who have been fleeced by Wall Street?

Tough question. Answer? Clinton is squarely between a rock and a hard place. And all because of that pesky senator from Vermont: Without Bernie's candidacy, there's no way this glaring contradiction would have gotten the attention that it is now. Thank you one more time, Bernie!

As Ms. O'Donnell summed it up:

...progressives cannot have Wall Street and their equality politics too.

There's a delicious element of irony to all this, too. One of the central catch-phrases of the first Bill Clinton campaign was: "It's the economy, stupid!"

Borrowing Bill's petard there, are you, Ms. Clinton?


I find this approach really useful in analysis, so I hope it helps you, too. It makes it easier to connect dots and attribute them to neoliberals as opposed to all the other clashing -isms out there.

And yes, all of those institutions are part of that web. If you want to break it down into even simpler terms, although at some risk of losing a bit of precision, this is a project that is essentially privatizing the entire planet. That's not Locke on steroids. It's Locke on an amphetamine bender.