And we will all continue to be the losers until we rethink our practice of politics and act accordingly.
Author’s Note: Although written in September, 2008, if you substitute the current players for those isix years ago, you’ll see the arguments made here are still valid.
We are in the midst of one of the most consequential presidential elections of our lifetimes, as E. J. Dionne asserts. Yet you’d never know it. What we have is a campaign turned horse race to oblivion. First, our choice of candidates (horses) is dismally bleak: a corporate-sponsored liar, war-monger, and sadist on the one hand and a corporate-sponsored unproven third-rate motivational speaker and carnival barker on the other. And, secondly, we have voters (bettors) fawning over both these candidates and expecting change!
Change? The only winner in November is going to be the status quo. Since nothing in this election cycle has changed in how we think about and practice politics in this country, how can we reasonably expect change? Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. As Earnie Larsen says, “If nothing changes, nothing changes.” We are insane if we think we can effect change by selecting either one of these defenders of the status quo in November!
First, corporate and other special-interest funding of our elections. As Molly Ivins suggests, if you want to see how a candidate will perform in office, just look at his or her major or fundamental source of funding. Show me the source of the money! In the case of both McCain and Obama that trail leads straight to the board rooms of the corporations and the offices of the lobbyists on K Street! Both candidates, by accepting this funding stream, have offered themselves as representatives of the corporate and special-interest gods, all the while sacrificing the common weal.
It is the corporate and special interests that will continue to be served in January no matter who gets elected in November because we will have elected the finest public officials private money can buy!
This is why the Democrats have been so wimpy. Their primary funding source and, consequently their behavior, is the same as the Republicans: corporations and lobbyists!
While it is true that the Republicans proposed the war in Iraq, the tax cuts, the policies that shredded the Constitution, and other evils the majority of us decry, the Democrats went right along with ‘em! Without the support of the Democrats, the Republican extremists couldn’t have adopted their radical agenda.
Jim Hightower, Thieves in High Places
“The sad truth is that none of George W’s agenda would be hanging around our necks without the complicity and often the direct support of national Democratic leaders. They’ve ditched the Red Wing boot bunch and thrown in with the wing-tip crowd, going all wobbly on the whole concept of why America needs a Democratic party.”
- The $1.3 trillion tax cut that Congress enacted could not have passed without the votes of 12 democratic senators.
- The vote for the Bill of Rights shredding Patriot Act was 96 to 1 in the Senate (Russ Feingold the lone dissenter), 337 to 79 in the House, virtually unopposed by Democrats.
- Rigging tax loopholes and loosening accounting rules for corporations was a specialty of the Clinton White House, with the enthusiastic backing of the party’s congressional leaders.
- NAFTA and WTO, which were permission for corporations to screw working people and the environment world wide, were products of the Clinton Administration.
- And the Homeland Security Act that suffocates American freedom, passed 90-9 in the Senate, which was under Democratic control at the time.
“What we need,” Molly Ivins points out in her book, Bushwhacked, “is to end the legalized bribery that has rotted the democratic political system.” She continues: “We need “public campaign financing. It’s this incestuous relationship with big money and failure to identify with the common people that has weakened our political process.”
As Senator Russ Feingold wrote in The Progressive: “It has become clear that meaningful campaign finance reform is a necessary precondition for the Congress to be able to do the people’s work in Washington.”
We need to, I submit, chase the termites from the forest of our political timber.
- Enron, WorldCom, Wal-Mart? Uh, well you see, we took their money, too, and let’s not piss off those guys, ’cause we want more money, you know?
- Bush’s preposterous trillion-dollar tax gift to the wealthiest people on earth? Oh, about that, uh, a lot of us voted for it, so . .
- Impeach George for his Iraq Attack? Well, now, we can’t be unpatriotic! We voted for Bush on this one, so best just cheer the commander-in-chief and move on.
This is a time to condemn the bankers, not to embrace them. They are the scoundrels who got us into the biggest economic mess since the Great Depression, lining their own pockets while destroying the life savings of those who trusted them. Yet both of our leading presidential candidates are scrambling to enlist not only the big-dollar contributions but, more frighteningly, the “expertise” of the very folks who advocated the financial industry deregulations at the heart of this meltdown.
- Kristin Jensen and Matthew Benjamin, Bloomberg.com
Obama’s tilting toward Rubinomics stirred a warning from organized labor.
A Rubin protege, Jason Furman, is now the economic-policy director of Obama’s campaign.
Neither candidate is proposing a single-payer universal program of healthcare demanded by the majority of Americans, only some patches on our present profit-based system demanded by their corporate sponsors—big insurance, big pharma, and big medicine.
- Trudy Lieberman, Columbia Journalism Review
McCain wants to rip up the employer-based health care system, replace it with tax credits for families and individuals, and require workers to pay income taxes on the value of their health insurance benefits from employers. He also wants families to make medical decisions. Obama would let people keep insurance from their bosses but make it easier for those who are uninsured to buy coverage through a public plan like Medicare. Neither would require people to carry health insurance (except Obama requires it for kids). Both candidates promise tax subsidies. How big they will be and who they will help is anyone’s guess.
Another reason why we will be the losers in November no matter whom we select is because we eliminated the only really candidates of change—Kucinich and Edwards—in the primaries.
(And before you get carried away tsk-tsking on a sea of mock sexual hysteria: Let him who is without sin cast the first stone! As long as the occupant of the White House is faithful to their oath of office and represents the citizenry—not the corporate/special interests—it’s none of our business who he or she is having consensual sex with, where and when. What Bill Clinton and John Edwards did in private was nobody’s business but theirs as long as it was consensual. Their behavior is to be preferred to that of the current occupant who apparently is pure sexually but who non-consensually puts it to every country, soldier, laborer, criminal defendant, consumer, taxpayer and citizen he can find and then lies about it!)
During the primary season every progressive I met was for Dennis Kucinich or John Edwards intellectually. But, when asked whom they were going to vote for and why, the response always was Obama because he can beat the Republicans in November.
Huh? Since when is the election a horse race in which bets are placed on which horse is going to win? I always thought it was the voters, not chance, that determined the outcome of an election. And, even if it is, since when does a racing fan go to the track and bet against which horse they don’t want to win? (Forgive them, Harvey; they know not what they do!)
A campaign for office is not a horse race, no matter how often our corrupted mainstream media want to present it that way. Terms like momentum, leading, handicap, etc. have no place in the conduct and coverage of political campaigns. Nor are they advertising campaigns in which we try to find the most marketable candidate or product and then sell them like a commodity like cars or soap or hemorrhoid preparations.
In a political campaign, the appropriate and responsible behavior is to select the candidate who most parallels your views and then stick with them! Had voters done that, we’d have an entirely different candidate on the Democratic, and probably the Republican, side. I mean progressive is, or should be, the majority political position in this country. And would be if we’d stop irresponsibly casting our votes against those candidates or boggeypeople we oppose and start voting for candidates—like Kucinich and Edwards—who represent our political position.
- Only the very few of us can even afford to vote with the Republican minority.
- Which means the rest of us outnumber them, are the Progressive majority.
- And the majority of us, as evidenced by the polls, want a progressive agenda. We want:
- members of the Bush regime impeached;
- single-payer universal health care;
- an end to the Iraq and Afghan wars and our troops home;
- real social security, not semi-privatized retirement accounts;
- public financing of campaigns;
- an end to the so-called war on drugs;
- immigration reform based on the ‘they work here, they live here, they stay here’principle;
- labor unions; and
Yet neither McCain nor Obama, Republicans nor Democrats, are interested in, let alone fighting for, any of these things. And the people who are, who did? We left them on the curb watching the political process rust like so many cars.
A final reason why we will be the losers in November no matter who we select is because we have given away our freedom as citizens and it’s corresponding awesome responsibility, to our oppressors, to our figureheads.
Like Mike Royko suggested, we really don’t want leaders: people who engage us in the political process, challenge us, and constantly prove to us that we can reach beyond ourselves. No, we want a figurehead: someone who will run the country for us and make all the decisions; someone to tuck us in every night with what we want to hear, a few encouraging, soothing, words, and a glass of warm milk.
But if we are to restore this nation to it’s former glory, we must throw off the yoke of political oppression, get out of bed, and take that freedom and responsibility back.
How? Consider what other oppressed people have done.
First of all, recognize that we all have a role in it. We are citizens in this great democracy. We have a right and a responsibility to be actively engaged in the systems that affect our common welfare. Only we and our ignorance and our apathy, no one or nothing else, not George Bush, not the Republicans, got us into this mess and only we can get ourselves out of it.
Secondly, we have to drop the waiting-for-the-messiah complex. We have to begin to realize that we are not victims; that if a new order is to be, its up to me. Most of us want God or someone else–individual or institution (Obama, the Democrats) to change the external aspects of our civic lives so that we don’t have to change internally by letting go of our collective ignorance and apathy. We want to be exempt from the responsibility for maintaining our common welfare. We often find it easier to resent and suffer in the role of victim than get off our couches, study the issues, and get actively engaged in our political process.
As St. Paul writes: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.”
“Do not conform yourselves to this age,” as St. Paul also writes, “but be transformed by the renewal of our minds.” As W. H. Auden has written,
“We would rather be ruined than changed;
We would rather die in our dread
Than climb the cross of the moment
And let our illusions die.”
Citizens have immense unused power. We could, theoretically, insist on a new campaign system that reflects our role as the seat of power in a democracy, not as pawns in a military-industrial-congressional power struggle. We could drive out fear in this country by restoring our faith in the dictum that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. We could raze one set of walls and create a government that truly promotes the general welfare. And we could raise another set of walls and let justice roll like a river and flood the streets.
We could. Theoretically. We have the power. But only in a very few places have we even begun to think about using it. For citizens, as for black people, the hardest battle isn’t with Mr. Charlie. It’s what Mr. Charlie has done to our minds.