I seem to recall Matt Taibbi, if memory serves me, coining the term “insane clown dystopia” to describe the Trump administration. We hear a great deal about the insane clown himself these days, but our eyes are fixed anywhere except on dystopia, because dystopia is staring us in the face, and it scares us.
Dystopia is a world where the global economy is going to crash again, worse this time, and . . . the climate will continue to destabilize, and . . . the proto-fascist surge will try to consolidate, or . . . a social democratic surge may overtake the proto-fascist surge, or . . . that social democratic surge will be blunted by capitalists within social democratic formations, or . . . a social democrat will win the US 2020 General Election, meet fierce resistance from the entire business class (who will make alliances with the far-right in half a heartbeat if they feel threatened), and inaugurate a longue durée of authoritarian capitalism that will culminate in mass biospheric and social exterminism . . . eating its own feedstocks even faster and finally collapsing into social chaos that will last a century or three, then rebuild in desperate half-starved local enclaves scattered throughout a poisoned and wrecked world.
Pretty fucking dystopian. But it can be worse, because runaway climate warming may be precipitated by the vast stores of methane being released as the Arctic thaws and a billion acres of waste fields that grow the methane from within. That’s the Venus scenario, when the planet becomes uninhabitable.
The path to salvation, as the Bible says, is narrow. Not really salvation in our case, because capitalism, while it has contributed to the misery of billions of people over the last few centuries, has also already permanently impoverished the biosphere through mass extinction and climate destabilization — even if we stopped pumping that carbon — is already in tow. There is no cure. There is only triage.
The US — which bears a huge share of responsibility for this predicament — is where it has to begin, paradoxically, because every other country in the world, including so-called rivals — is dependent within the same system revolves around the Jupiterian gravitational field that is the US economy.
Given the ever shorter timelines for the manifold catastrophe’s that ramify from climate destabilization, the only way out is exactly what Extinction Rebellion is saying: we have around ten to fifteen years to get out collective shit together before the conjuncture picks up all that shit and throws it into the fan. Mega-storms, fires, floods, droughts, and all the crop failures, migrations, power struggles, as well as continued capitalist “development,” will create a toxic stew of unrest, reaction, and social breakdown, in an era with half the world’s population trapped in cities that depend absolutely on a daily inflow of food, water, and other resources.
If there is to be a political solution — where existing power is put into the service of a planetary rescue operation — we may be seeing the last chance in the US.
2024 cuts our timeline down to five to ten years. That last best chance is the Green New Deal — warts and all — which would mobilize a World War II scale effort with government financing. Not because the US is the only place, but because the US going that way facilitates the freer emergence of similar efforts around the world. Without the US on board, the climb is far steeper for everyone else. Every year that passes without some grand response, the relevance of all the old discourse is rendered increasingly moot.
Here is where I return to . . . “a social democrat will win the US 2020 General Election, meet fierce resistance from the entire business class (who will make alliances with the far-right in half a heartbeat if they feel threatened).”
There are two social democrats running in the 2020 primaries, Sanders and Warren; and we hear about their policy ideas now; but what about the day after the election, when exactly what I’ve described in the preceding paragraph — fierce resistance from the entire business class, backstopped by an armed right wing — will begin?
This is when the two “styles” of Sanders and Warren really matter. Warren is a product of the white technocratic class, who has very little contact with or influence over mass movements . . . which technocrats, including Warren, distrust. Sanders, on the other hand, is running a campaign through social movements, which he has explicitly warned will have to mobilize on the day after to protect social democratic programs against capitalist reaction. Sanders already knows, as we should, that the election is only the first scene in the first act. We have to mobilize on Inauguration Day, because the capitalist class will declare open war on social democracy . . . or what it is opening the door to — socialism.
On the day after, we will have to prepare for the streets to (1) protect social democrats from that reaction and (2) push them further to the left, and make huge advances between 2020 and 2022 in changing the face of Congress.
This is a long shot, but there is about one second left on the buzzer, and we are standing at half court. Miss, and insane clown dystopia (which was built by both parties before its rightful leader showed up) will be our world for a very long while. People say that beating Trump is the prime directive, but without very bold policies and a militant mass movement, a Democratic administration like preceding Democratic administrations will stand fast at the edge of the rising waters instead of jumping in. Same result . . . few seconds later.