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Presidential Debates? I Call It Bunk



Who are we kidding? America pretends that Thursday’s official Presidential foreign policy debate is the apex of US democracy in action (more like democracy inaction). Few expect to gather new information from the scripted theatrics. No real alternative will be offered to counter the Bush agenda. God forbid. Kerry will simply scoff at Bush,s mismanaging of the war in Iraq, and Dubya will respond by pointing out Kerry’s flip-flopping of the issue. Show over.

It won’t be much fun. Ralph Nader, of course, will not be allowed to participate in the evening’s events. Not only have the two-parties done their part in muting Nader’s candidacy, the Democrats have also done a bang-up job of keeping Ralph off the ballot in many states. Nice going guys. High-fives all around. Indeed, this is what democracy looks like in the US: two Skull and Bones blood brothers from Yale battling it out for the right to run the American Empire. There is no room for choice, that,s how they want it. Pass the pretzels; it’s gag time.

There may be some inadvertent benefits to Nader being refused ballot access, however: Democrats, unlike 2000, won,t be able to wrongly accuse anyone else of spoiling Kerry’s wasted bid. They will have done it all by themselves. How many loses does it take for the Dems to learn that the DLC’s conduit is the wrong one traverse? You can bet Howard Dean, waiting in the wing, is secretly licking his chops in hopes Kerry loses by a large electoral margin. He wants to take back the Party from the thieves that stole it, and the only way to do so is by having Kerry go down in flames. Burn baby burn.

Meanwhile, the Green Party is hobbling along quite nicely. David Cobb, the stealth Green candidate from Texas, is accomplishing exactly what he set out to do. Which is absolutely nothing. Oh wait, he’s building the Green Party. I forgot. What a force they will be! You see, you make an impact by debating the other no-name third party candidates on CSPAN, racking up your .005% vote total, and calling it a huge win for your team. It’s like the peasants fighting amongst themselves while the royalists continue to exploit the common good: you invariably grow in size, but make no impact on your own lot in life, let alone elections. Call it compliant rebellion.

So do the debates between Bush and Kerry really mean anything? This is the biggest election of our lifetimes, or so they say. Is it? Sure there are differences between the two candidates, but it only matters on how one weighs the similarities. Abortion? Sure there is a disparity, although the threat is inflated by the Democrats in order to steer pro-choice voters away from Naderland. Death penalty? Not a big difference. Heath-care? Well, they want us to believe there is, but it is subtle. Trade? Not a difference worth mentioning. Israel? Kerry may be more hard-lined then Bush on that. Environment? Only rhetorically. The Democrats have done their fair share of contributing to the Bush rampage. War? Nope. Civil liberties? Not that either. The list goes on.

Sadly, this is what American politics has become: debating minute variations between two corporate candidates on network TV. They call it primetime. I call it bunk. Pass the remote.

JOSHUA FRANK, a contributor to CounterPunch’s forthcoming book, A Dime’s Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils, is putting the finishing touches on Left Out: How Liberals did Bush’s Work for Him, to be published by Common Courage Press. He welcomes comments at


JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, co-edited with Jeffrey St. Clair and published by AK Press. He can be reached at You can follow him on Twitter @joshua__frank

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