After Bernie Sanders’ Face the Nation interview lit up the progressives ethosphere this weekend with dreams of a true warrior willing to attack “casino capitalism,” a seemingly sleep-deprived Hillary Clinton gave a passionless economic policy speech on Monday that supposedly highlighted her concerns, such as “The young entrepreneur who’s dream of buying the bowling alley where he worked as a teenager.”
With Sanders, like Barack Obama in 2008, establishing himself as the candidate of ideas, “it’s déjà vu all over again” for Hillary.
Majority Leader John Boehner volunteered a casual quip before Sunday’s Face the Nation sit-down that Sanders “never saw a tax increase he doesn’t like.” With a gotcha smirk on the moderator’s face as he then turned to ask Senator Sanders (I-VT) if he was “really opposed to capitalism,” the self-proclaimed socialist artfully looked straight into the camera and replied that what he was opposed to was “casino capitalism.”
Sanders used these code words to insert a campaign of competitive ideas into the Democratic presidential primary by raising the radical theory of “Critical Pedagogy” advocated by Henry A. Giroux. With that deft move, he sought to contrast himself as a populist and pacifist versus Clinton as the hawkish establishmentarian that in bed with corporate interests.
In his updated edition of Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism, Giroux uses the metaphor of the zombie to highlight how America has embraced a “machinery of social and civil death” that supposedly chills any remnant of a “robust democracy.” He posits that the political, corporate, and intellectual “zombies that rule America” embrace “death-dealing institutions such as a bloated military, the punishing state, a form of predatory capitalism, and an authoritarian, death-driven set of policies that sanction torture, targeted assassinations, and a permanent war psychology.”
Giroux rejects the elites’ advocacy for “casino capitalism” that drives people to put as much money as they can into a slot machine and hope they “walk out with our wallets overflowing.” But more often Giroux claims, people become “like the walking dead–they lose their sense of agency, they lose their homes, they lose their jobs.”
In calling for a new systemic alternative to “zombie capitalism through a political and pedagogical imperative to address and inform a new cultural vision, mode of individual subjectivity, and understanding of critical agency,” Giroux argues for new large scale effort to build a broad-based social movement that includes adopting a new political language capable of “placing education at the center of politics.”
Just as Barack Obama used a sly introduction of “critical race theory” elements to take away all the progressives’ oxygen from Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign–whose slogan at the time was “let’s chat“–Sanders is using the same playbook to challenge Clinton’s 2016 campaign.
Clinton has spent the last three months on the campaign trail conducting another one of her low risk “listening tours,” designed to rope off the press (literally) from being able to ask any serious questions that might create controversy.
This year’s campaigns heavy hitters for Hillary appear to again be exactly the same type of “casino capitalist” Wall Street bankers, lawyers, hedge fund billionaires, and Hollywood “suits” that Giroux blames for impoverishing America.
Hillary Clinton is trying to paint herself as opposing casino capitalist elites by coming out against the hedge funds’ “carried interest” tax dodge, and even throwing millennials under the bus by intimating that “gig economy” entrepreneurs in the “sharing economy” of Uber should be be unionized.
But now that Sanders has turned the Democratic primary into a contest of ideas, she will look forward to months of explaining how she can possibly become an opponent of “casino capitalism” when it is where she raises her money.
Dressed in a black pant suit and white blouse appropriate for a funeral, Clinton generated little enthusiasm as she gave her speech, and nodded approvingly when people clapped. But there was none of the fire in the belly–nothing like that happy warrior Bernie Sanders dressed in his Democrat blue shirt generated attacking Hillary’s elite donors.