[This was originally a response to a comment on a Facebook status. I thought it was pretty good, so I wanted to post it up here]
My position is, for lack of a better term, complicated. I am a moderate in the sense that I want very much to see my parents’ generation retire with a modicum of dignity and security. Towards that end I think it’s important to recognize the role of banking and finance in the pension system, which is a big part of why Hillary Clinton taking campaign contributions from Goldman Sachs, etc doesn’t bother me. They’re part of the establishment, and as such, they can’t be expected to give up their position without serious resistance. It’s not to say that I don’t recognize the enormous injustices that have occurred on account of financial speculation and the corruption of banking regulations and so on. But I think we have far more to lose from treating bankers as villains than we have to gain from working with them.
The intractability of globalized capitalism is a result of the fact that many of us (most of us?) have no faith in anything besides money. If you want someone to do something, you pay them. People don’t trust the government, they don’t trust their neighbors, they don’t even trust banks or businessmen, but they trust cash in their hand. Practically everyone trusts money. And I don’t see that changing any time soon, so I think it best to work within that framework.
When I hear Bernie talk about New Deal style programs – many of which I would be absolutely in favor of – I think about FDR, and how his entire political career stands in vivid contrast to Sanders. FDR was the definition of an establishment politician. He passed all those social programs with the help of Southerners (which is why the National Labor Relations Act did not apply to farm workers or domestic servants). He came from immense wealth and privilege, and could never have accomplished all that he did without that background. And besides that, he led us into the biggest war the country ever fought. The whole appeal of Sanders is based on his humility and commitments to peace and democratic socialism, and while I certainly respect those qualities very much, I cannot see how he will lead us successfully through the sort of political agenda brought to bear by the Roosevelt administration in the 1930s and 40s. To me, the appeals to the New Deal are appeals to the past. And I want to look towards the future.
It’s true that in some ways I am a moderate, because what I care about is moving forward through the existing political framework. It is also true that I am in some sense a radical, because the future I see for this country, and for the world, is very different from the past 50 years. I think that the United States should focus on a program of Shared Prosperity with the rest of the world – meaning that we need to not only accept still more immigrants, and to help them to become Americans, but also we need to invest, as a country (meaning, the Federal government should spend money and resources), building up other countries, to help them better develop modern infrastructure and institutions. Those sorts of challenges would transform both the US and rest of the world. But I do not see the courage for those sorts of commitments forthcoming from the present American electorate. Rather, I see a great deal of fear as well as exhaustion. People are always saying they’re “sick and tired.” We do not want to struggle; we do not wish to fight. We just want to go back to bed – and that’s what keeps me up at night.