There is great confusion, generally, about the terms ‘liberal democracy’, the related ‘neoliberalism’, ‘republicanism’, as well as ‘fascism’ and ‘neofascism’. While some of these terms are often jumbled around in murky waters and Orwellized by all-too-clear propaganda, so it might be easy to meet any of them with the scoff of dismissal that shows you know everything and nothing at the same time. Perhaps the meanings are not easy to suss out for those who aren’t interested in reading about political science or history, and very difficult for readers who are very limited to the ‘blogosphere’, and totally impossible for those who strongly receive propaganda, but for today only, Dr. Angstrom H. Troubador is pouring out his intellectual gravy for the internet masses to summarily reject and eject, injecting wordplay like a tired and unfun episode (medical) coming out of Lionel Nation’s big mouth.
Firstly, a liberal democracy is a weak democracy, in fact it is one purposefully designed to protect the property of the rich and powerful. This kind of limited democracy in which only political rights are appropriate for the masses to debate purposefully engendered an ongoing ‘culture war’ wherein civil rights are the only rights that many citizens, for example Ta Nehisi Coates, can even imagine. Early liberal thinkers did not go out of their way to hide the fact that they distrusted democracy and looked at it as an instrument by which the rich and powerful could preserve and legitimize their power. To put a fine point on it, a liberal democracy that is operating as originally intended is an oligarchy. In practice, however, this oligarchy is forever in constant peril.
That doesn’t sound very ‘liberal’, at least in the common usage of the word in the United States at this moment. But to understand why a ‘liberal’ is also an American leftist is impossible without a quick history. The liberal oligarchs of 19th century Europe (and the Americas) controlled all economic policy which engendered a terrible global crisis, triggering some of the worst wars and famines in history as the 20th century dawned. The invisible hand of nature failed their generations miserably, and through the mechanisms of democracy which were originally supposed to only be a sham legitimizer of their rule, and through the war and revolutions, some policies, governments, and institutions that were robustly democratic emerged around the world in the wake of this disaster. Militarist reactionaries in Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany wanted to set back the clock and recapture the naturalizing economics and a semblance of the former order from the grasp of democracy. Hitler actually got his start by denying that Germany lost the war, which should tell you something. Through perverted norms of civility, cynical mass propaganda techniques and so on, this nostalgic daydream deepened the crisis in Germany and ultimately only brought on a nightmare of economic cannibalism in the concentration camps, much akin to what Swift brought ‘ad absurdum’ when liberalism was a fresh 18th century way to enlighten your powdery whigged up head. But, mostly thanks to the communist grit and sacrifice, the skeletal specter of fascism passed and was forgotten, and over much of the 20th century the strongly democratic economic policies of now not-so-liberal nations like America built up educated work forces and absorbed millions from around the world into a fertile and rich economy that seemed to never slow down. But, like a zombie from the 18th century, ‘neoliberal’ dogmatists clawed their way out from under Hitler’s tombstone, murmuring their self-concerned discontent. It wasn’t natural that they should pay taxes, that democracy should exist beyond some flimsy sham of a culture war. They felt bad about beating up Nazis in their opportunistic charge to carve up Europe, and had long talks with Werhner Von Braun about colonizing the moon with nothing but white babies. Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon killed JFK, MLK, declared war on humanity itself, and did it all in the name of Nature, blasted their message on television night and day, and ultimately created a culture that cheered for a reality TV show fetishizing a string of firings that can only leave one person in all of the world with a high paying job. And that’s why Bill Clinton and other democrats had to call themselves ‘liberal’, so you can be sure he’s not a communist. Although for the money, the best usage of all comes from the right wing bumper stickers declaring that liberalism is a mental disorder. Specifically, economic liberalism is the grandiose delusion in which one’s own property is inflated into a law of nature and made untaxable. ‘Neoliberalism’ is specifically the expropriation of democratic institutions by private ownership, and it is the direct track to neofascism paved by the CIA when they lit the sanction-busted Soviet’s government on fire and expropriated the whole goddamn empire. Putin was among the first neofascists, and it was just what the paperclippers in the CIA ordered.
As for ‘republicanism’, this was an ancient Roman concept that was rebirthed by Machiavelli in his most famous work, The Discourses of Livy. Unlike in the little-known pamphlet of personal advice for a dictator of a no longer existing form of government, The Prince, the Discourses is the book in which Machiavelli set out the schematic for a fully modern nation state. Featuring three branches resembling oligarchy, monarchy, and democracy all set against one another in tension Machiavelli designed the stability that is today embodied in many modern nation states that have hung around for unusually elongated historic periods. In the sense of American politics, a Republican is a Conservative with that eye for stability and properly separated power Machiavelli set forward in his book. But this scientific view of politics and the staunch conservatism always on the losing side of centuries of culture wars has broken open, seemingly without crisis, into a full-fledged oligarchist front which has now implemented a policy of crisis to make way for the neofascist cannibal type hotfixes already in experimental stages, to help bust open its own mean shell. Blowing up the ACA. Big irony to conclude today with, of course, the Trump Administration’s rabid anti-republican rhetoric dismissing all legitimacy in the other branches of government, and even parts of the executive that have a layer of traditional separation from the president’s office for reasons of propriety that are so obvious even Barrett Brown could spot it from the bottom of a junk binge. Neoliberal? That don’t mean nothin!