There’s a real fight going on in the Republican Party between the neoliberal-neoconservative establishment, i.e. the corporatist-globalist wing of America’s political-ideological apparatus, and the populist uprising led by democratic-republicans and economic nationalists, what insiders refer to as the Trump wing of the party. Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney, daughter of long-time establishment figure Dick Cheney, understands the problem economic nationalism presents to the establishment, recently using dramatic language to awake her fellow Republicans to the danger. Essentially, she characterized the MAGA movement as neo-Marxist.
Cheney was prompted to make this characterization after Representative Jim Banks wrote a memo to Leader Kevin McCarthy last month encouraging the leader to urge House Republicans to embrace issues important to working-class voters if they wanted to take back the House majority in the 2022 midterm elections. “You may have seen that I’ve been thinking a lot about the future of our party and how we capitalize on the gift Donald Trump gave us, which was his connection with working-class voters,” Banks writes “Because of Trump, the GOP has undergone a coalitional transformation and is now the party of the working class.” He adds, “We should embrace that. Not fight it.”
Banks understands that Donald Trump won 75 million votes in the 2020 election largely thanks to the turnout of working class voters, including black and brown citizens, who are waking up to the realities of the managed decline of the American republic. In the memo, Banks writes, “Democrats will keep alienating working-class voters because that’s what their donors demand, and Republicans should welcome them with open arms by fully embracing an agenda that’s worthy of their support.”
Banks’ characterization of the Democratic Party as alienating working class Americans is epitomized by Hillary Clinton’s notorious 2016 smear of half of Donald Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables.” This basket, she said, is “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic.” Presumably she wasn’t referring to the business and middle class voters who were supporting Donald Trump. She was talking about working class Americans and reframing their individualism and traditionalism in critical theory terms. She was talking about a the good people back in my home state of Tennessee.
Clinton was echoing Barack Obama from eight years earlier. “They get bitter,” Obama said; “they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” In his characterization of the “deplorable,” Obama is at once telegraphing his politics: hostility towards gun owners and Christians—and his globalist agenda.
Clinton and Obama’s characterization is standard among progressives who loathe the working class and rural Americans who love their republic and want responsive small-d democratic government. I know this first-hand. I am a professor at a public university. I am surrounded by progressive academics who look down on ordinary Americans. For them, a working class man critical of corporate exploitation of foreign labor to undermine his standard of living is a xenophobe scapegoating immigrants. I hear such expressions of elitism all the time. Frankly, it has become so bad I find it difficult to socialize with colleagues. Piling on more insult, administrators don’t wait for an employee to act in a manner contrary to the doctrines of diversity, equity, and inclusivity; employees are compelled by threat of disciplinary action or withholding of pay raises and promotion to take routine mandatory training in woke ideology. (Do I even need to add that the Democratic Party can safely count on their votes?)
The Democratic Party, like the Labour Party in the UK, has become the party of transnational corporate power, the affluent middle class (that is, the academic, administrative, professional-managerial strata), and a constellation of identity groups, among whom the party has promoted victimhood and created dependency. The aims of this anti-working class and elitist alliance are antithetical to the interests of ordinary American citizens of all races, religions, and ethnicities. There’s no future for working class and rural citizens in such a party. Nor for America as a republic. Corporate governance and the pursuit of globalization is destroying the nation.
According to Melanie Zanona of Politico, Liz Cheney, who voted to impeach President Trump on the absurd charge that he incited the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot, and who is backed by corporate insiders and former Speakers John Boehner and Paul Ryan, responded to Banks’ memo by insisting that “the GOP is not the party of class warfare.” She argued that “dividing society into classes while attacking the private sector is neo-Marxist.” But there is class warfare. Political parties don’t divide society into the social classes. Capitalism does that.
Cheney is giving voice to an establishment—and this includes Democrats—desperate to tamp down the move by conservatives to give political representation to working class and rural citizens across the nation. The Democratic Party, closed to populism, progressivism ubiquitous in the Democratic Party, no longer serves as a vehicle for working class politics. Cheney’s frantic rhetoric makes obvious the recognition that the Republican Party has become a potential organ for the populist-nationalist rebellion against globalization and denationalization. The Democratic Party is likewise terrified that shifting working class sentiment could drain away members of their coalition (hence the scramble to enlarge the voting base and weaken election integrity). The ruling class is surely pining for the 1990s.
Of course, the populist uprising is not neo-Marxist. Ironically, neo-Marxist posturing has become the angle of woke capitalism and its functionalities, the forces against which the populists are rebelling. But it’s not Marxist, either. Obviously.
How should Marxists feel about all this? Marxists should oppose globalization and denationalization. Most acutely felt in offshoring and mass immigration, denationalization disempowers working class people, undermines their communities, and lowers their living standards. Marxists should oppose identity politics, as well. Identity politics fracture working class consciousness and under the development of working class politics. Marxists should not support a political party that is unified in pushing globalism, mass immigration, and identity politics.
When I hear self-described leftists arguing that the Democratic Party is the lesser of two evils, I am reminded of how profoundly contemporary leftwing thought retards class consciousness and the capacity to reckon the situation. The Democratic Party is the greater evil. The Republican Party, still the party of big business, is the large-scale political apparatus most open to working class politics. It matters less whether it’s left or right wing. It matters that, whatever the name of the party, that is democratic-republican and liberal in its support for the principles of equality and liberty. It is to be expected that the elitist progressive looks down her nose at the working class and rural voters who see in the Republican Party the only apparatus responsive to their interests and values. The progressive attitude towards working people exudes pity and contempt for ordinary Americans, whom they see as backwards and bigoted—rubes who, as Obama put it, cling to God and guns. Part of moving forward requires those who identify as leftists pulling their heads from that space.
This means recognizing the threat of corporate governance, something Marxists used to be good at. It is therefore interesting when prominent Republicans speak out against corporate governance. “From election law to environmentalism to radical social agendas to the Second Amendment, parts of the private sector keep dabbling in behaving like a woke parallel government,” Senator McConnell said yesterday. “Corporations will invite serious consequences if they become a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country from outside the constitutional order.”
I wouldn’t describe corporate governance as a “far-left mob.” However, I understand why McConnell would given that corporations funds are useful to the Republican Party. Moreover, the rhetoric of the woke corporate administrators is drawn from far-left ideology, including neo-Marxist doctrines. The senator has to be careful not to alienate sources of funding. But it’s clear what he is talking about when he accused the private sector of behaving as a parallel government. However the manner in which McConnell said this, it is promising that he raised the issue. This is the real danger to our republic. It’s bad enough that corporations would influence legislation and public policy via their money power. But openly colluding and acting to undermine the legitimacy of the federal or state governments and acting as if a corporation is a legitimate government agency of these territories presents a clear and present danger to national integrity.
Economic nationalism is the solution to the problems of the working class. Close the borders and marginalize China. Dismantle corporate governance. The functionaries of the corporate establishment understand this. Suppressing populism is imperative. This is why conservative and liberal voices are being systematically silenced across the mediascape. This is why a prominent establishment Republican would be moved to absurdly characterize MAGA as neo-Marxist. The rhetoric signals fear and desperation.