By Chris Hedges
The Democratic Party and its liberal supporters are perplexed. They presented hours of evidence of an impeachable offense, although they studiously avoided charging Donald Trump with impeachable offenses also carried out by Democratic presidents, including the continuation or expansion of presidential wars not declared by Congress, exercising line-item veto power, playing prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner to kill individuals, including U.S. citizens, anywhere on the planet, violating due process and misusing executive orders. Because civics is no longer taught in most American schools, they devoted a day to constitutional scholars who provided the Civics 101 case for impeachment. The liberal press, cheerleading the impeachment process, saturated the media landscape with live coverage, interminable analysis, constant character assassination of Trump and giddy speculation. And yet, it has made no difference. Public opinion remains largely unaffected.
Perhaps, supporters of impeachment argue, they failed to adopt the right technique. Perhaps journalists, by giving voice to opponents of impeachment—who do indeed live in a world not based in fact—created a false equivalency between truth and lies. Maybe, as Bill Grueskin, a professor at the Columbia University Journalism School, writes, impeachment advocates should spend $1 million to produce a kind of movie trailer for all those who did not sit through the hours of hearings, to “boil down the essentials of the film” and provide “a quick but intense insight into the characters, setting the scene with vivid imagery—to entice people to come back to the theatre a month later for the full movie.” Or perhaps they need to keep pounding away at Trump until his walls of support crumble.
The liberal class and the Democratic Party leadership have failed, even after their defeat in the 2016 presidential election, to understand that they, along with the traditional Republican elites, have squandered their credibility. No one believes them. And no one should.
They squandered their credibility by promising that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would, as claimed by President Bill Clinton, create 200,000 new, well-paying jobs per year; instead, several million jobs were lost. They squandered it by allowing corporations to move production overseas and hire foreign workers at daily wages that did not equal what a U.S. unionized worker made in an hour, a situation that obliterated the bargaining power of the American working class. They squandered it by allowing corporations to use the threat of “offshoring” production to destroy unions, suppress wages, extract draconian concessions and push millions of workers into the temp and gig economies, where there are no benefits or job security and pay is 60% or less of what a full-time employee in the regular economy receives. They squandered it by forcing working men and women to take two or three jobs to support a family, jacking up household debt to $13.95 trillion.
They squandered it by redirecting wealth upward, so that during the Clinton administration alone 45 percent of all income growth went to the wealthiest 1%. They squandered it by wiping out small farmers in Mexico, driving some 3 million of them off their lands and forcing many to migrate in desperation to the United States, a human tide that saw the U.S. right wing and President Trump direct mounting rage toward immigrants. They squandered it by turning our great cities into urban wastelands. They squandered it by slashing welfare and social service programs. They squandered it by supporting endless, futile wars that have an overall price tag of between $5 trillion and $7 trillion. They squandered it by setting up a surveillance system to spy on every American and then lying about it. They squandered it by catering to the big banks and gutting financial regulations, precipitating the 2008 economic meltdown.
They squandered it by looting the U.S. Treasury to bail out banks and financial firms guilty of massive financial crimes, ordering the Federal Reserve to hand over an estimated $29 trillion to the global financiers responsible for the crash. They squandered it by not using this staggering sum instead to provide free college tuition to every student or universal health care, repair our crumbling infrastructure, transition to clean energy, forgive student debt, raise wages, bail out underwater homeowners, form public banks to foster investments in our communities at low interest rates, provide a guaranteed minimum income and organize a massive jobs program for the unemployed and underemployed, whose ranks are at least double official statistics.
They squandered it by cutting child assistance programs—most drastically during the Clinton administration—resulting in 16 million children going to bed hungry every night. They squandered it by leaving over half a million Americans homeless and on the streets on any given day. They squandered it by passing laws that keep students burdened by massive college loan debt that has climbed to $1.4 trillion, debt they cannot free themselves from even if they declare bankruptcy. They squandered it by militarizing police and building the world’s largest system of mass incarceration, one with 25% of the world’s prison population. They squandered it by revoking due process and habeas corpus.
They squandered it by passing massive tax cuts for the rich and for corporations, many of which—such as Amazon—pay no federal income tax, ballooning the federal deficit, now at $779 billion and climbing. They squandered it by privatizing everything from intelligence gathering to public education to swell corporate bank accounts at taxpayer expense. They squandered it by permitting corporate money—an estimated $9.9 billion will be spent this presidential election cycle on political advertising—to buy politicians in a form of legalized bribery that sees corporate lobbyists write legislation and create laws. They squandered it by doing nothing to halt the looming ecocide.
The problem is not messaging. The problem is the messenger. The mortal wounds inflicted on our democratic institutions are bipartisan. The traditional Republican elites are as hated as the Democratic elites. Trump is vile, imbecilic, corrupt and incompetent. But for a largely white working class cast aside by austerity and neoliberalism, he at least taunts the elites who destroyed their communities and their lives.
The shakedown that Trump clumsily attempted to orchestrate against the president of Ukraine in the hope of discrediting Joe Biden, a potential rival in the 2020 presidential election, pales beside the shakedown orchestrated by the elites who rule over America’s working men and women. This shakedown took from those workers their hope and, more ominously, their hope for their children. It took from them security and a sense of place and dignity. It took from them a voice in how they were governed. It took from them their country and handed it to a cabal of global corporatists who intend to turn them into serfs. This shakedown plunged millions into despair. It led many to self-destructive opioid, alcohol, drug and gambling addictions. It led to increases in suicide, mass shootings and hate crimes. This shakedown led to bizarre conspiracy theories and fabrications peddled by a neofascist right wing, deceptions bolstered by the lies told by those tasked with keeping the society rooted in truth and verifiable fact. This shakedown led to the end of the rule of law and the destruction of democratic institutions that, if they had continued to function, could have prevented the rise to power of a demagogue such as Trump.
There is zero chance Trump will be removed from office in a trial in the Senate. The Democratic Party elites have admitted as much. They carried out, they argue, their civic and constitutional duty. But here again they lie. They picked out what was convenient to impeach Trump and left untouched the rotten system they helped create. The divisions among Americans will only widen. The hatreds will only grow. And tyranny will wrap its deadly tentacles around our throats.
Chris Hedges is a Truthdig columnist, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a New York Times best-selling author, a professor in the college degree program offered to New Jersey state prisoners by Rutgers University, and an ordained Presbyterian minister. His latest book is America: The Farewell Tour (2018). His book War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (2003) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction and has sold over 400,000 copies. He writes a weekly column for the website Truthdig and hosts a show, “On Contact,” on RT America.
This article was published on December 9 at truthdig.