When Capitalism undermines Democracy

Heather Cox Richardson | Letters from an American

HCR
Heather Cox Richardson

May 26, 2022

All day, I have been coming back to this: How have we arrived at a place where 90% of Americans want to protect our children from gun violence, and yet those who are supposed to represent us in government are unable, or unwilling, to do so?

This is a central problem not just for the issue of gun control, but for our democracy itself. 

It seems that during the Cold War, American leaders came to treat democracy and capitalism as if they were interchangeable. So long as the United States embraced capitalism, by which they meant an economic system in which individuals, rather than the state, owned the means of production, liberal democracy would automatically follow.

That theory seemed justified by the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The crumbling of that communist system convinced democratic nations that they had won, they had defeated communism, their system of government would dominate the future. Famously, in 1992, political philosopher Francis Fukuyama wrote that humanity had reached “the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” In the 1990s, America’s leaders believed that the spread of capitalism would turn the world democratic as it delivered to them global dominance, but they talked a lot less about democracy than they did about so-called free markets.

In fact, the apparent success of capitalism actually undercut democracy in the U.S. The end of the Cold War was a gift to those determined to destroy the popular liberal state that had regulated business, provided a basic social safety net, and invested in infrastructure since the New Deal. They turned their animosity from the Soviet Union to the majority at home, those they claimed were bringing communism to America. “​​For 40 years conservatives fought a two-front battle against statism, against the Soviet empire abroad and the American left at home,” right-wing operative Grover Norquist said in 1994. “Now the Soviet Union is gone and conservatives can redeploy. And this time, the other team doesn’t have nuclear weapons.”

Republicans cracked down on Democrats trying to preserve the active government that had been in place since the 1930s. Aided by talk radio hosts, they increasingly demonized their domestic political opponents. In the 1990 midterm elections, a political action committee associated with House Republican whip Newt Gingrich gave to Republican candidates a document called “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control.” It urged candidates to label Democrats with words like “decay,” “failure,” “crisis,” “pathetic,” “liberal,” “radical,” “corrupt,” and “taxes,” while defining Republicans with words like “opportunity,” “moral,” “courage,” “flag,” “children,” “common sense,” “hard work,” and “freedom.” Gingrich later told the New York Times his goal was “reshaping the entire nation through the news media.” 

Their focus on capitalism undermined American democracy. They objected when the Democrats in 1993 made it easier to register to vote by passing the so-called Motor-Voter Act, permitting voters to register at certain state offices. The next year, losing Republican candidates argued that Democrats had won their elections with “voter fraud.” In 1996, House and Senate Republicans each launched yearlong investigations into what they insisted were problematic elections, one in Louisiana and one in California. Ultimately, they turned up nothing, but keeping the cases in front of the media for a year helped to convince Americans that voter fraud was a serious issue and that Democrats were winning elections thanks to illegal, usually immigrant, voters. 

In 2010 the Supreme Court green-lit the flood of corporate money into our political system with the Citizens’ United decision; in 2013 it gutted the provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act requiring the Department of Justice to sign off on changes to election laws in some states, prompting a slew of discriminatory voter ID laws. In 2010, REDMAP (Redistricting Majority Project) enabled Republicans to take over state legislatures and gerrymander the states dramatically in their own favor. 

At the same time, the rise of a market-based economy in the former Soviet republics made it clear that capitalism and democracy were not interchangeable. An oligarchy rose from the ashes of the USSR, and U.S. leaders embraced the leaders of that new system as allies. That allyship has gone so far that this week, the Conservative Political Action Conference held a conference in Hungary, where leader Viktor Orbán, who was a keynote speaker at the event, has openly rejected democracy. At the conference, he called for the right in the U.S. to join forces with those like him; yesterday, he declared martial law in his country. 

At home, where our focus on free markets has stacked our political system in favor of the Republicans, the vast majority of Americans want reasonable gun laws, reproductive rights, action on climate change, equality before the law, infrastructure funding, and so on, and their representatives are unable to get those things. 

Capitalism, it seems, is also trumping democracy at home.

“Spike” tours the UK

Spike

Spike UK Tour – Ian Hislop and Nick Newman’s comedy starring John Dagleish as Spike Milligan will tour in late 2022.

Spike UK Tour 2022

Olivier Award-winning actor John Dagleish (Sunny Afternoon, Farming, The Third Day) will reprise his critically acclaimed role as ‘Spike Milligan’ this autumn, as SPIKE – the comedy by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman that had its world premiere at The Watermill in January – tours the UK.

It’s 1950s austerity Britain, and out of the gloom comes Goon mania as men, women and children across the country scramble to get their ear to a wireless for another instalment of The Goon Show. While Harry Secombe and Peter Sellers get down to the serious business of becoming overnight celebrities, fellow Goon and chief writer Spike finds himself pushing the boundaries of comedy and testing the patience of the BBC.

Spike Milligan
James Mack, John Dagleish and George Kemp in Spike. Photo: Pamela Raith

Flanked by his fellow Goons and bolstered by the efforts of irrepressible sound assistant Janet, Spike takes a flourishing nosedive off the cliffs of respectability and mashes up his haunted past to create the comedy of the future. His war with Hitler may be over, but his war with Auntie Beeb –  and ultimately himself –  has just begun.

Will Spike’s dogged obsession with finding the funny elevate The Goons to soaring new heights, or will the whole thing come crashing down with the stroke of a potato peeler?

Ian Hislop and Nick Newman said, “It’s a privilege to take ‘Spike’ on tour, exploring the genius of Britain’s most inspirational and ground-breaking comedian. And of course, it’s another chance to steal all his jokes and pass them off as our own. Spike Milligan may be Goon, but he’s not forgotten.”

John Dagleish said, “I’m so thrilled to be playing Spike Milligan again and take this fantastically funny play around the country in what will be my first ever touring production. Such a brilliant script, with a wonderfully talented cast, celebrating the life and work of one of the all-time comedy greats.”

Spike Milligan play
John Dagleish as Spike Milligan. Photo: Pamela Raith

The Watermill production of Spike is produced by Karl Sydow, Trademark Films, PW Productions and Anthology Theatre.

The Spike UK Tour will be directed by Watermill Artistic Director Paul Hart, with design by Katie Lias, lighting design by Rory Beaton. The Composer is Tayo Akinbode with sound design by Tom Marshall. Anjali Mehra is Movement Director and Ruth Sullivan is the Foley Sound Consultant.

Full casting will be announced shortly.

Source: Spike UK Tour

GasLit Nation: Help Ukraine by Cleaning Up Western Corruption. The Maksym Eristavi Interview

May 18, 2022

GASLIT NATION WITH ANDREA CHALUPA AND SARAH KENDZIOR

In this interview conducted a few weeks before Russia’s escalation of its invasion of Ukraine, Eastern European journalist and writer Maksym Eristavi explains the social and political crises that led the world to this point. Andrea and Maksym discuss corruption in Ukraine, how the Kremlin has weaponized that corruption, and how corruption in Ukraine is an enduring legacy of Russian genocidal colonialism, and how the West can help Ukraine by cleaning up its own corruption. They also discuss Ukraine’s efforts to build a free and just civil society despite corruption, in particular ongoing initiatives to preserve LGBTQ rights. This interview provides vital historical context on the ongoing regional conflict.

Derry Girls is comedy gold, but its last episode was no grand finale

Derry Girls final episode

Derry Girls finale review: Alas, the last episode overdoes it with a one hour special

By Ed Power

Derry Girls is such a beloved series Channel 4 has given it not one finale but two. Technically, Lisa McGee’s Northern Ireland comedy took its bows on Tuesday night – and on a bleak note with the sudden death of the father of Nicola Coughlan’s Clare.

But scarcely have audiences had a chance to dab away tears than it’s back for an even grander grand farewell in the form of a one-off, feature-length special (Channel 4, 9pm).

The idea is to apply a big shiny, full stop to a show that has become an unlikely juggernaut – who’d have imagined international viewers would go gaga for an ensemble chortlefest set in the final years of the Troubles?

But while Derry Girls makes an appropriate fuss of its leave-taking this is accompanied by bucketfuls of saccharine – plus a truly bizarre cameo (see below). And so, when people fondly reminisce about Derry Girls years from now, it is probable they won’t be thinking back to tonight’s sappy sign-off.

It’s 1998 and Ireland is about to vote on the Good Friday Agreement (yes, the one Brexit is doing its best to unravel). Yet for Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson) and friends the big occasion on the horizon is an upcoming birthday party.

Two parties in fact: to save money, Erin and cousin Orla (Louisa Harland) are throwing a joint 18th-birthday shindig. Sadly, they have clashing ideas as to what makes a killer bash. Erin wants to celebrate great female authors. Orla is keen on a monkey-themed soiree.

Uncertainty likewise stretches ahead of Sister Michael (Siobhán McSweeney), who is informed she is to be moved on from Our Lady Immaculate College. Her work is done, new challenges await, she is told.

Closer to home, chaos engulfs Erin’s parents (Tara Lynne-O’Neill and Tommy Tiernan) with the return of Cousin Eamon (Ardal O’Hanlon), a Father Dougal type whose speciality is spreading good-natured havoc.

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