April 12, 2004
The quadrennial charade has broken out early. The conventions have not been held but the electioneering is coming through hot and heavy. Many people have been waiting anxiously to dump the incumbent imposter; some since the day the Supreme Court couped the country. Their war cry: "Anybody But Bush!"
But whether they do or don't succeed, it won't make much difference. The real winner, an unseen but oh-so-strong, powerful and wealthy permanent champ, knows that the campaign as usual will keep the stirring masses pacified. The ruling elite has always come out on top, while magically keeping their influence hidden from the public. So long as they can retain their power and increase their wealth they are satisfied.
The Pacifying Media
By controlling the media they are able to manipulate the public with contentious issues like gay marriage, affirmative action, the death penalty, prayer in schools, the flag, etc. Issues that excite and divide but never address or question the elite's power or wealth.
While such issues divide they also continually keep -- what H.L. Mencken termed -- the booboisie anesthetized of more important matters. The rulers can then continue playing inversion "Robin Hood," economically clobbering the less fortunate as they pick up the loot.
There are always extraneous issues that become hot topics. Right now it's gay marriage. A new criminal trial involving some celebrity or mass murderer can keep things rolling for months. Sports are great tranquilizers -- all year long baseball, football, basketball, hockey, golf, tennis, you name it. Some sensational film can do it.
But by far the most effective is an election. The public actually believes that they will be accomplishing something when they vote. They think this meaningless ritual will really change their lives. In some minor ways, perhaps. But whatever the results the elite will always be the big winner. Whoever wins and whatever the issues they will continue to drain wealth and power from the masses.
No candidate has much of a chance to be considered for any important governmental position if he has not passed muster of the real rulers. Neither party offends those generous corporate and ultra rich benefactors. Should some unapproved soul infiltrate the upper echelons of the company store he can expect no cordial welcome.
A not at all radical Howard Dean, having gained appeal with the antiwar crowd, was soaring high in the polls. He was so clobbered by the media that when the days of reckoning -- the voting -- arrived, his wings were clipped. The media ignored the candidacies of Kucinich, Sharpton, etc. who raised issues that the elite frowned upon. Theirs were voices in the wilderness.
Third party candidacies also get the Rodney Dangerfield, 'no respect', treatment by the supposedly unbiased media. Obviously such news is NOT fit to print.
Right now it's apparent that John Kerry will be the tweedledum standard bearer -- the shining knight that the "Anybody But Bush" crowd has been waiting for. Many have been describing him as Bush-lite, an inoffensive clone of the incumbent. It's possible that the incumbent may turn out to be Kerry-lite, a milder version -- hard to believe -- of what Kerry will accomplish.
Kerry's record and his comments have shown little differences on most vital issues. He will continue the current war policies, even suggesting an increase in the military forces. His foreign policy advisors are in agreement with the neo-cons. He has criticized the newly elected Spanish president for promising withdrawal from Iraq. He denounced Chavez and Castro and will continue the current US policies in Cuba and Venezuela. He voted for the Bush tax cuts and intends to keep them. He voted for and apparently still supports the Patriot Act but complains that Ashcroft "abuses" it.
Is there a major difference? He'll convince former allies to approve of US policies, taking a slower and more deliberate approach. Should he be successful the peace movement may lose the foreign support that has been most helpful in its fight. And the US peace movement will decline and lose momentum until such time as more negatives pile up.
A look back at past campaigns reveals that successful candidates do not follow through on their promises. On that most important issue of war, time after time it was entered into shortly after the "anti-war candidate" was inaugurated.
Woodrow Wilson rode to reelection based on a theme, "He kept us out of war."
Franklin Roosevelt claimed he hated war and promised that the US would not go to war unless attacked. All the while he was finagling an attack by the Japanese.
Lyndon Johnson's campaign exploited the recklessness of Goldwater with an atomic bomb commercial of such persuasiveness that one showing was sufficient.
Note that these major wars were all commenced under Democratic administrations. The party supposedly of the less privileged. The less privileged, who provide war's cannon fodder.
More Democratic Presidents
All the other twentieth century Democratic presidents spilt blood as well. Truman in Korea; Kennedy in the Bay of Pigs and Vietnam; Carter, a Nobel Prize Winner, did not involve American boys but set up the Mujahideen in Afghanistan to lure the USSR into a war. The blood spilt there was not American blood so some might say "so what." But with "blowback" on 9/11, American blood flowed as well.
The real rulers know that as usual they can't lose. It makes no difference who wins the presidency -- yes, even if the impossible were to occur and Ralph Nader were to triumph. A non-approved president would be checked on everything he attempted by the legislature and the courts and balanced to distraction by the constitution that was designed to maintain a status quo by preserving and fostering the power and wealth of the ruling elite.
Although his programs would be stymied he might stir up people's resentment. Stirring up the electorate is a no-no. Accordingly, unapproved candidates must never, never, never see the light of day.
Bush has been the best of all the puppets they've had. His administration has destroyed many hard-fought benefits that took years to enact and many that existed since the birth of the Republic, namely the Bill of Rights. The opposition party -- and the miserable system locks out more than those nominal two -- was right there to rubber stamp what was proposed.
A pusillanimous public, cowed by 9/11, allowed them to get away with it.
If elections are ineffective what's to be done? Can there ever be substantial change? Absolutely, positively, most assuredly, YES!
Those benefits that were crushed were won through the forceful demands of the people. Governments never gave away anything. Only overwhelming popular pressure broke resistance to the status quo.
The Constitution would not have been ratified if a Bill of Rights were not promised! Women's suffrage required over 70 years of struggle and protest. Roosevelt's New Deal was enacted to forestall a major popular upheaval. The '60s protests by anti-warriors, blacks, women, environmentalists, etc. pressured the hard-line Nixon administration to be credited with EPA, OSHA, Amtrak, an all volunteer army, extension of civil rights, etc.
People's protests abroad are better examples. They tackled and overthrew extremely cruel hard-line regimes. In almost all instances those governments were supported economically and militarily by the U.S. itself. Some of the notable victories were against the Shah, Marcos, Suharto, Samoza, Baby Doc, Mobutu, etc. The citizens of those countries were under no illusion that their votes would mean anything. So they resorted to a really effective way to create change.
Last year the Venezuelans kicked out the US-supported intruders who usurped the government of Hugo Chávez, their beloved leader. Within a couple of days millions were marching in the streets. The Venezuelan elite was shocked; and since then has been trying unsuccessfully to oust Chávez from power.
Antidote for Elections
So ignore what happens this November. It will be the same old show. Just a different cast of characters to play the parts -- with the same winners and the same losers.
You want change? Get off your butt. Join a progressive movement in your area. If there is none, form your own with like-minded people.
Go outside and scream, yell and holler, "We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore!" Eventually, enough groups will join throughout the country and that formidable government, like those others just mentioned, will come tumbling down.
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US Elections & Democracy on Swans
America the 'beautiful' on Swans
Philip Greenspan on Swans (with bio).
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