Could another four years of Democratic Party rule be as
disastrous for the Left, oppressed social groups, and the working class
generally as a fresh four-year hell of Republican Party rule? I think it is
quite possible—for the simple reason that, as a ruling-class political party
that lacks the capacity or desire to radically alter the status quo in
favor of the less powerful and privileged, the party in power will invariably
become the target of mass resentment with the status quo. This
resentment may be of a left-wing or right-wing variety; a bourgeois,
middle-class, or working-class variety; or a convoluted mix thereof, but it is
Perhaps it may have been otherwise during previous moments in the history of U.S. capitalism, when it could be argued that a relatively broad consensus of satisfaction with the status quo existed among a critical mass of the population. But the era of such a cross-class consensus is over, and with it the golden years of an (always ephemeral) alignment of the liberal bourgeoisie and the working class in the Democratic Party. Now, the ship of state of U.S. capitalism is a tottering behemoth, badly in need of repairs and lurching toward global economic imperial decay. The growing inequality between rich and poor (and the super-rich and everyone else), persistent inflation, retrenchment in virtually all state services except repressive apparatuses, the multiplication of social crises from ubiquitous homelessness to civil strife— are all signs of capitalism’s inability to meet our collective needs.
Since neither the Democratic nor Republican Parties have any cure for the ills plaguing the status quo, the rule by either one or the other party means simply the switching of hands upon the clipboard of leadership over a terminal case. Under Democratic Party rule, the Republican Party and the right-wing take the initiative in leading the resistance to the insufferable status quo, not only making gains in terms of partisan support but also benefiting from momentum on a local level to enact a slew of utterly bigoted oppress-and-conquer measures. Under Republican Party rule, the Democratic Party and liberal organizations take up the mantle of the resistance, grow their ranks, and perhaps even stymie the worst excesses of the ruling party’s administration. However, in either case the effect remains the same. It is less the swinging of a pendulum–the switch from the rule of one party to the other is less diametric than is supposed–than it is an alternating current, a form of energy transmission that is both stable and continuous despite undergoing constant reversal.
The point is that the Democratic and Republican parties are not the same, but neither are they wholly separate species. They are respectively funded by different, though overlapping, sectors of capital, after all. Put more accurately, the rule by the Democratic and Republican parties, as distinct from their respective propaganda and social bases, is noteworthy above all else for the exceptional flexibility and constancy with which it has alternated over roughly 150 years of U.S. capitalist history.