In their current guise, Democrats today can only offer redistribution of wealth, which itself can come in two forms, each with inherent problems. A traditional socialist approach would hardly be in the interest of the Democratic funders or the non-profit establishment, given it would involve siphoning off the wealth of people like Jeff Bezos, who expended much of his media power, through the Washington Post, opposing Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid. Yet the progressive left continues to push this agenda, notably in big urban centres, a continuing challenge to more oligarch-friendly liberals.
The other alternative would be to turn the middle and working class into future serfs – that is, people increasingly dependent on what Marx called ‘the proletarian alms bag’ (1). This ‘oligarchal socialism’ – backed by many tech oligarchs – would transfer funds, likely from the remaining middle class, to fund a ‘guaranteed annual income’ to keep hoi polloi in subsidised apartments, spending their time in low-wage gig jobs, while they play video games, smoke pot, drink and water their houseplants. It is an approach that allows the oligarchs to continue accumulating the wealth and power they see as their due, while keeping the peasants separate from their pitchforks.
These unattractive alternatives could provide enormous opportunities for Republicans, or more traditional Democrats, if they could overcome the opposition of ‘market fundamentalists’. On the right, as the American Prospect has demonstrated, many conservative think-tanks are financed by Google and other oligopolists. The future could belong not to Trump but to more coherent Republicans like Oren Cass and his American Compass group, who reject ‘let the market rip’ fundamentalism and openly favour working-class interests in terms of healthcare, education, housing, anti-trust policy and energy.