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Cornel West – Spiritual Blackout in America: Election 2016

he most frightening feature of the civic melancholia in present-day America is the relative collapse of integrity, honesty, and decency — an undeniable spiritual blackout of grand proportions. The sad spectacle of the presidential election is no surprise. Rather, the neofascist catastrophe called Donald Trump and the neoliberal disaster named Hillary Clinton are predictable symbols of our spiritual blackout. Trump dislodged an inert conservative establishment by unleashing an ugly contempt for liberal elites and vulnerable citizens of color — and the mainstream media followed every performance (even his tweets!) for financial gain. Clinton laid bare a dishonest liberal establishment that was unfair to Bernie Sanders and obsessed with winning at any cost — and the mainstream media selectively weighed in for pecuniary ends.

In short, the rule of Big Money and its attendant culture of cupidity and mendacity have led to our grand moment of spiritual blackout. The founder of Western philosophy, Plato, foresaw this scenario. In “The Republic” — history’s most profound critique of democratic regimes — Plato argues that democracies produce citizens of unruly passion and pervasive ignorance, manipulated by greedy elites and mendacious politicians. The result is tyranny — the rule of a strong man driven by appetites, corruption, and secrecy. There is no doubt that Trump meets this description more so than Clinton. Yet neoliberals like Clinton bear some responsibility for the anger and anguish of Trump’s followers — especially those white male working and middle-class citizens who have been devastated by neoliberal economic policies of deregulation, NAFTA, and Wall Street protection. The vicious xenophobia toward women, Mexicans, the disabled, gays, Muslims, Jews, and blacks are the sole fault of the Trump campaign. Yet the rule of Big Money in capitalist USA downplays the catastrophic effects of global warming, of poverty, and of drones killing innocent people — all the common ground of Trump and Clinton.

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