|... Already in the recession you are seeing a very small number of Americans who have been made homeless or unemployed, grabbing a gun and shooting the people they hold immediately responsible for their situation. Typically that is some middle management position like a worker at the local bank or a real estate agent. The media have not highlighted this trend. The elites and their agents have noticed it and taken action to protect themselves somewhat.
A violent revolt does not mean two armies fighting each other like the American Revolution. It would mean asymmetric warfare targeting the elites and their agents. Something like what is seen in Afghanistan and Iraq but no longer ten thousand miles away. Not very pleasant for anyone involved on either side of course which is the whole point.
Several people have repeated the mantra that non-violence is effective but I question this and would welcome a convincing explanation. It seems to me that in a war (this class war) it is not wise to unilaterally disarm and say to your enemy that you will not hurt them badly. I also think that much of the power of non-violence so-called is the implicit threat of violence inherent in non-violent movements. For example when Dr King got a large crowd of black people to march on Washington, was that not an implicit threat of violence?
We also must recall that the on-going class war by the ruling class is not non-violent at the moment. Several hundred people die in it every day though mostly not in America, of course. Those we fight are happy to slaughter millions. They have no conscience. Would non-violence have worked against the Nazis?
(2) Third parties
The question of whether to try and take over the Democratic party or build up a third party is argued about a lot but it seems to me that the first step along either road (and for that matter also the first step towards revolution) would be to create a movement or tribe to which people could belong and identify. The better question is, can that be done while continuing as part of the Democrats?
I am skeptical whether it can be. Can you get people-and I mean here normal people with little political knowledge-to identify with a wing of the Democratic party enough to pursue an objective that is distinct from the objectives of the Democratic Party in general? To vote against the party at times and vote with it at times but to owe their real loyalties to the smaller faction? I think that would be too hard to do without effectively creating a third party anyway.
People are too tribalist. That is an intentional policy of divide and conquer between the two corporate parties of course, building on that human nature. See how Obama commands the loyalty of so many so easily despite his flaws. It's hard to get a large mass of people to have a double mind about the Democratic party, I think.
People often say, well how often does a third party become a success? Another question would be how often has a major party been taken over by outsiders?
(3) Communism and socialism
Any solution to the problem must start by embracing these two naughty words. If we fight a class war then we must eliminate the enemy which in a class war happens when you take their money from them and bring about a larger degree of equality in society. It's that simple. There's no middle ground here so stop pussyfooting around and call it what it is.
Class war is also the obvious means of creating a third party style group identity because who does not understand 'us against them'? Even the right wing authoritarians know as much when they rail against the bankers and "the government." However, nobody is allowed to offer this identity as a tribe so they must cling to the only tribe they have - the Republicans (or perhaps the Tea Party).
Susan Griffin raises the anti-communist argument from WW2, suggesting that you risk fascism by saying the Democrats are not enough. Yes it does. And that is the point. The German elites didn't exactly make out too well because of fascism did they? I don't think the American elites want to give it another try. But this brinkmanship, this political game of "chicken," is something the elites play a lot-for example with their nuclear weapons. Their own view has long been that you act "crazy" and "insane" to throw the other guy off and cause them to back down. Given that, we have a choice of essentially submitting to them or of risking getting badly hurt. As a movement we cannot bluff, which, in a game of chicken, is actually a big advantage if you use it.
(4) The lessons of history
A lot of the points made in the comments were answers to the wrong question. They were answers to the question, "What is the last thing we do before we win?" For example fixing the way votes are counted. But if you have the power to do that, you have already basically won. So the question of real interest, as we are being pragmatic, is "What is the first thing you do?"
Since nobody knows, the obvious thing to do is to look at history and see how great change has happened. In this respect some have suggested history shows incrementalism working in the New Deal and Civil Rights periods. I would like to point out that in both cases the elites considered the threat of [international] communism fundamental in their decision to offer compromises towards the people. Nowadays we see the opposite. Without the threat of communism the elites are trying to reverse what they felt obliged to hand out when they were afraid.
Absent that fear, I am not sure what the mechanism is supposed to be that leads to change. A huge crowd of (especially black) people was a threat at the time that Dr. King marched on Washington, but today it is not. We recognize that difference and so do the elites, of course. That is why marching does nothing these days. Again, with communism in the background the American people had a visible threat to hold over the elites, but these days, with communism and socialism considered naughty words even by what passes for the left in the U.S., can't the elites just sit back and say, "What are you gonna do, eh?"
(5) How politics really works behind the curtains
bklynguy and Stuart H castigated many as naive because we don't know how politics really works. This is not said often enough. For the last ten years, more or less, I've been reading these political blogs in part trying to learn just that, but in fact nobody ever explains 'how things really work'.
And it is (to me) a very obvious absence. Half the time you read any article on a political blog these days it is expressing surprise or astonishment over something some politician has done and I think to myself-well instead of expressing surprise why don't you find out why? So you're not surprised next time? And that never happens. It is never even acknowledged that surprise implies the absence of important knowledge.
So how about, if you believe you have this secret knowledge, instead of lecturing us on our naivety try to explain how politics really works and why politicians really behave in their typical ways?
But I wonder if there is not a distinction here between local and national level politics? For obvious reasons all those saying they have direct experience have it on the local level (except a few insiders like Mike Lux who seem to want to keep that insider knowledge secret). They say that-contra the view that there's not a dime's worth of difference-at the local level it makes a lot of difference. They extrapolate this to the national level, but is there evidence that extrapolation holds true?
Perhaps we should treat local and national politics differently and not extrapolate from one to the other?
(6) What to do first
Well if nobody else is going to answer it then I will. First comes education. That is what Chris Hedges is doing, of course. Second comes building an identity - whether as an arm of the Democratic party (I think this is hard) or a third party. I think the basis of the movement or tribe is going to have to be class war - us vs them. It's the truth and it's easily agreed on. I suppose you could also try to base a movement on some crappy patriotic scam like defending the constitution or fighting "corruption" in government, or "taking our country back," but none of those are really true and sound quite weak to me.
But that's me. One of the things you ought to do is start asking questions like, "How do we get there from here? What does the route look like? How do we start? Can we use what we've got on these social forums?" And, of course, "Is someone already doing it?"
At any rate going on and on saying "Chris Hedges hasn't got any ideas" (which as far as I know isn't true anyway but it's not all on him) seems pointless.
(7) On the efficacy of voting
My point here is that voting is not pointless but it is dangerous. Voting does not affect elections but it can help create a group identity.
Critics of a third party say it would have no chance of winning. This is true but irrelevant. All votes are wasted votes in the sense that their chances of deciding the outcome of an election are zero. A vote for a third party, however, sends a message and helps to establish a political identity or movement and give it some coverage in the corporate media.
There is something to be said for the idea that voting at all binds you to the corporate system. There is that danger, but I think it is worth the risk in voting third party, so long as you don't do it thinking you could possibly win or that there was anything fair about the process.
(8) Working with a minority
In trying to move the country in the direction we want it to we are opposed by the elites, who have many advantages but in the end are a tiny minority of the country. This leads people to think of our side as the silent majority, and then they make grandiose and silly sounding comments about how "we" should, for example, change the constitution or pass this or that set of sweeping reforms.
But we are not a majority either. While we may hope that most people would form common cause with us if they had the opportunity to learn what was going on, that cannot happen except as a battle (or goal) in the war. In other words, the mentality can't be "When we have our super majority we'll do X" but instead, "How do we get our majority?" And by definition what we have to work with until then is a minority of the population.
So that is NOT an advantage we have over the elites. And they have on their side money, power and knowledge. In addition, any tactic or strategy we did ever manage to come up with-let's say we think of a silver bullet that will get us into power-could easily be adopted or co-opted by the elites and used against us.
Therefore, whatever the path to victory looks like we do know that it involves heavy use of tactics that the elites cannot duplicate. For example, telling the truth (but it has to be more convincing than their lies). Also, appealing to class war as a tribal identity (but it has to be a more obvious appeal than their false tribes of Republican and Democrat).
(9) "Tit for tat" game theory
I don't know what the answer from the incrementalists is to the observation that game theory says that if progressives continue to vote Democratic come what may, then they will be ignored by the Democrats when it comes to policy. This theory of course assumes that the Democratic politicians have no interests in common with their voters, which does appear to be true, and which incrementalists seem to readily agree to, with stories about FDR saying "Now make me do it." That anecdote of course only makes sense if you assume that FDR had no interest in doing 'it' otherwise.
However, if both parties are playing good cop / bad cop then even tit for tat won't work and the entire election process is revealed as a fraud. You could see this already happening in the reaction to, e.g., Nader. Logically, a defeat in 2000 - later judged to have been so important because of the alleged clear difference between Gore and Bush, and all hanging on the perverse votes of a few Naderites - would lead to concessions by Democratic politicians towards the Naderite agenda. In fact what we saw happen was the opposite. It's almost like the Democrats want to lose elections.
By which I mean, they do. This makes perfect sense in a good cop / bad cop paradigm. Of course if we knew the inner workings of politicians' minds, as some who have knowledge of local politics have reminded us, maybe there would be some better explanation, but we do not.