At this writing, it looks like Trump’s appointment for Education Secretary, right wing fundamentalist billionaire heiress Betsy De Vos will be confirmed. Though it is unclear when the vote will be scheduled, it will almost certainly require Pence to break what is expected to be a 50-50 tie. This will be nearly unprecedented-a majority party not being able to assemble a majority to confirm their own president’s cabinet appointment. I’m not big on symbolic victories, but not entirely unreasonable to chalk this up as one.
That said, as important as this is, it and many other recent right wing assaults (the immigration ban, Milo Yiannopolis, Gorsuch for SCOTUS) strikes me a bit of a sideshow. To recognize what the main act is, it is important to remember that Trump’s top priority-as it would have been Clinton’s-is to further enrich those who are already rich beyond their dreams of avarice. Yes, more than a few lobbyists are employed by the companies who stand to benefit from what is euphemistically referred to as Ed Reform of the sort championed by De Vos-as well as the Obama administration, as Diane Ravitch reminds us. But in relative terms this is small scale.
Those at the top of the pyramid, including the six Goldman Sachs executives in Trump’s cabinet, have their sights set on much bigger game. The prize they are trying to claim, and very well might, is Social Security and Medicare, the privatization of which will channel hundreds of billions of dollars into Wall Street banks and investment houses. Their likely battering ram for this, Trump’s appointment for OMB, has attracted relatively little attention thus far. And that’s a problem since Mick Mulvaney is an anti-entitlement, privatization zealot, much as DeVos is a charter school, privatization zealot.
If we had a fully functional movement, we would be out on the streets and in our senators’ offices opposing his appointment, as much or even more so than we are to protest the immigration ban and Nazis speaking on college campuses. Furthermore, those joining us would be those who voted for Trump who, after all, pledged to protect Social Security and Medicare many times, as Sanders continually points out.
But we don’t (yet) have a fully functional movement, so likely the Mulvaney appointment will sail through. Obviously, I have no power to will a protest movement into existence. If I did, however, I would wave my magic wand to make this happen.
The reason why I’m optimistic that it wouldn’t require magic is that, as I’m old enough to remember, something like it happened once before. While a lot has been written about the antipathy between hard hats and hippies in the sixties and seventies, what gave Nixon fits was the potential, sometimes realized, for anti-war activism to unite under one banner all of those who saw through the insanity of sending away American boys to die in a war which even its strongest advocates recognized was a mistake.
Here is one instance when it did: the radical peacenik icon Pete Seeger appearing at the hardhat shrine the Grand Old Opera invited by Arkansas dirt farm balladeer Johnny Cash.
It seems there’s plenty dividing “deplorables” and those referred to in a recent presidential tweet as “professional anarchists, thugs and paid protesters” on the streets in the past few weeks. But they are all united on one point: no one wants to subsist on a cat food diet in old age or die of a treatable infection-which is exactly what Social Security and Medicare cuts and/or privatization means.
Our job is to unite them again. Only when we do will we wipe the smirk off the face of the plutocratic vulgarian who, as much as we might want to deny it, remains in control of the political narrative and is inflicting vast suffering on hippies and hardhats and everyone else.