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Two Conventions

Profiles in Decadent Cowardliness

by RALPH NADER

The Republican and Democratic Conventions are mercifully over but their corrosive impacts on our democracy persist.

First, did you know that taxpayers helped fund these conventions at a level of $100 million for logistics and police sequestrations of demonstrators in Tampa and Charlotte and an additional $18.2 million each for general convention expenses?

The two party duopoly obviously controls the honey pot in Congress. That corporate welfare is what they enacted in spite of the fact that the party’s convention committees are private corporations that should pay for their own big political party and their many smaller social parties with plentiful food and drink. No third party – Green, Libertarian or others – received any taxpayer money for their conventions this year.

Second, the Republican and Democratic Conventions have jettisoned their original purposes which were to resolve the contest for the presidential nomination and work up a platform. Both functions are now decided beforehand, setting the stage for a choreographed theatrical event of political pomposity and braggadocio. On the periphery are the omnipresent corporate lobbyists and their parties of free food and drink.

Did they ask you the taxpayers to foot so much of this bill? Silly question for an oligarchy greased by a plutocracy.

Taking these conventions at face value, one is shocked by how they are scripted right down to every line of every speech vetted by the politicos. Clint Eastwood’s spontaneity that so angered the GOP operatives was the exception.

The Republicans put three themes in just about every speech. Tell your personal story, recount your humble beginnings, and describe how you pulled yourself up by your own bootstraps. Show the people you’re human or at least humanoid, not corporatist. Keep heralding small business so you don’t have to talk about Big Business which has bad vibrations these days around the country. Also, praise, praise, praise Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as family men with family values. Imagine Republicans telling the press that the convention was to “humanize” Romney and give the voters a warm, fuzzy feeling about their candidate so as to forget that his campaign is a clenched-teeth mouthpiece for Big Business.

The Democratic Convention evokes pity. They too had similar scripts at the podium – narrate your humble, hardworking family lines, talk incessantly about jobs so you won’t have to talk about wages. Especially muzzled was the willing Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO, who, since 2009, has been given the back of Obama’s hand on “card check organizing rights” and on an inflation-adjusted minimum wage. His staged remarks even withheld any mention of a $10 minimum wage (See H.R. 5901 bill “Catching up with 1968”) and the raiding of worker pensions by corporate raptors.

The repetitive over-wrought praise of “el Presidente” in every speech became mawkish, reminding one of the “politics of personalism,” present in many countries with underdeveloped political institutions. Michelle Obama found no time for mentioning the Obama family and America’s mission to grow and consume nutritious food and keep fit to avoid the ravages of obesity. She was too occupied gushing over her aggressive drone commander’s touching nightly reading of letters from Americans about their problems.

The mass obeisance ended when the commander-in-chief himself sprung onto the stage to speak the language of hope, meanwhile avoiding addressing the number of undesirable conditions that need his attention at this singular opportunity.

Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks, trying to be sympathetic, was looking for some significant specificity:

“What I was mostly looking for were big proposals, big as health care was four years ago. I had spent the three previous days watching more than 80 convention speeches without hearing a single major policy proposal in any of them. I asked governors, mayors and legislators to name a significant law that they’d like to see Obama pass in a second term. Not one could. At its base, this is a party with a protective agenda, not a change agenda…”

Fortifying Brooks’ observation was Obama’s recounting of the differences between the Democrats and Republicans. They are almost all defensive in nature. Defend social security, Medicare, and abortion from the Republican offensive. The Democrats are not on the offensive – getting tough on: corporate crime, consumer gouging, bank abuses, corporate tax avoidance and evasions. They are not on the offensive fighting for worker’s safety and labor rights or minimum wage increases or helping the poor earn more and pay less.

Even when Obama mentioned climate change – a recent no-no in the Democrat’s lexicon – his words were defensive, namely “climate change is not a hoax” he did not elaborate.

This defensive attitude against the cruelest, most ignorant corporate-indentured, anti-worker, war mongering Republican Party in history is also seen in the debates and programs of Democratic Congressional and state candidates.

Being on the offense with an agenda standing for and with the people who economically are being driven, along with their country, into the ground by unpatriotic global corporations and their political minions, should be easy. Unless, that is, the Democrats want to continue dialing for the same corporate campaign dollars.

Playing defense explains why veteran Democrat members of the House of Representatives tell me that the party is going to lose the House again to the likes of John Boehner and Eric Cantor. The Democrats cannot even defend the country from Republicans who think Ronald Reagan was too moderate and unelectable today.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.