Saturday Night Live had this skit years ago where they presented a Fugitivesque TV show called The Last Liberal. With all the talk on Fox News and conservative talk radio about the rise of Socialism in Obamerica, Bill Moyers decided to go out and find The Last Socialist to get the other side of the story. It turns out the subject of the host's recent Bill Moyers Journal interview is an old pal of the Weekly to boot!
Moyers jokes that when it came to locating a socialist, his show "consulted the Endangered Species Act and actually found one, way out to the People's Republic of Southern California." That one would be meat cutter and long-haul driver-turned-writer, historian, urban theorist, social commentator and MacArthur "genius" Mike Davis, who teaches creative writing at UC Riverside and is still listed on UC Irvine's history faculty page. Davis, of course, penned City of Quartz, Ecology of Fear and his latest, In Praise of Barbarians: Essays Against Empire.
At one point, Moyers asks about "this chorus of voices, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, conservative talk radio, Fox News, Lou Dobbs, CNBC's Cramer and Kudlow, all blaming Obama for the bad economy. Are those attacks sticking out where you live in California?"
DAVIS: Well, I mean you know, what could be more absurd than the, you know, the people who brought this country to its knees now being the chorus of dissenters, now representing themselves as the populous? The fact that they're the ones who have erected the antenna, the lightning rod for popular anger is worrisome because if these bailouts and stimulus fail, if the country sinks deeper into what could be a very long period of stagnation if popular anger is monopolized by the demagogues on the Right, I think you could see a real resurgence of the Republican Party or at least of its most anti-immigrant economic nationalist wing.
This is something maybe not very visible on the national screen. But when you live near the boarder like I do in Southern California, the southern cities, areas of the Midwest, this has really invigorated what you once would have refereed to as the John Birch Society wing of the Republican Party. The vacuum left by the fall of the Soviet Union has been filled by, you know, good old-fashioned Nativism immigrant bashing.
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No group is so vulnerable right now as the immigrants whose labor has sustained the California economy for the last generation, legal or un-legal. They have the fewest entitlements. They have the least safety net. And their jobs are the ones that are being impacted most directly because they work in construction services or industries that are highly sensitive to the business cycle. Some have gone back to Mexico. Mexican statistics show that. But it doesn't make sense for most people to go back. The border economy has really collapsed. The tourist economy along the border is dead. The maquiladoras, the border assembly plants are laying off. So having made huge investments to get to the United States, doesn't make a lot of sense to go back to a country where there are even fewer jobs and fewer hopes. How are people surviving? Well, in some cases, they cram five into a room. They're standing in front of Home Depots hoping they won't get picked up by the police or the immigration service. And, of course, this exists in a situation where it's very likely that our southern border and that Mexico are going to become very, very destabilized, further destabilized than they are. And this provides lots of ammunition to construct the whole, like, Versailles myth of the economic crisis. You know, to blame immigrants, to blame liberal, to blame the imaginary socialism of bank rescue plans that are fully endorsed by The Economist or the Financial Times.
When Moyers says no one in America is raising the specter of real Socialism--the abolition of private markets and the wage systems, the nationalizing of all the major industries, the supplanting of capitalism, dogs and cats, living together--Davis corrects the host.