Who “Shifted to the Right?”
Did You Shift To the Right?
The reactionary candidate in the Dutch elections didn’t do as well as predicted. Maybe the fascists won’t win in France, either, but Donald Trump will still be President of the United States and the talking heads of the news will still be saying that there’s a “shift to the right”
They don’t say that somebody else shifted to the right, they say that the electorate did. We’re the electorate, so they mean us. Did you shift to the right? I doubt it.
In fact, a “shift to the right” by the electorate is not what is happening at all. If the electorate were becoming more reactionary, we wouldn’t have seen the liberal election results on marijuana and minimum wage. What we’re seeing is something else.
What Are We Seeing?
We are seeing a shift in tactics by the rich.
Throughout written history, the more-or-less propertyless have fought against the propertied for basic sustenance, for rights, and for freedom. We have done pretty well for ourselves, especially under capitalism. Once workers freed themselves from slavery and serfdom, we went on to get better living conditions, a little bit of dignity for workers, and limited democracy.
We’ve always fought for more democracy, more control over our lives, and in generally we’ve been winning. Winning at least until lately. American workers did particularly well during the golden days from the end of World War II to the late 1970s. That’s when American industry completely dominated the world. We got rid of all-white primaries, poll taxes, English-only ballots, fake literacy tests for Black voters, prohibitions on voting for 18-year-olds, and we made other great accomplishments during that period. But our democracy was always limited.
We never won the right to vote on wars, on plant closures, on layoffs, on hiring policies, and lots of other things that are exclusively done by the propertied class. Only recently, most of us realized that we’ve never had the right to vote on Federal Reserve officers. So our democracy has grown, but it was always limited.
After 1982, when the government started coming down on our right to unionize, our democracy began to erode. When the Supreme Court opened our election process to unlimited financial intervention, when they gutted the Voting Rights Act, and when unfair redistricting and voter suppression laws became common, we began to realize that the long-term trend toward more democracy was being reversed.
Why The Reverse in Democracy?
Around 1980, the propertied class changed their tactics. Instead of kidding us along with limited democracy, they decided on an all-out war against our rights. What changed for them was international competition. The United States no longer had the only functioning factories in the world and had to compete with countries who could make better products cheaper. The squeeze was on.
One can validate this with any account of inequality. From 1945 to the late 1970s, American workers constantly improved our lot. After that, it’s been downhill economically. One good book about it is “Runaway Inequality” by Les Leopold. Leopold shows what happened, but he is a little skimpy on “why” and “what the heck do we do about it?”
The owning class changed their tactics, and we have to fight them! That’s the why and what.