The End of Political Theatre


“There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say.”

-W..E.B. Dubois (1956)

“Places everyone, Places” we are entering the final act of political theatre. The Presidential debates indicate the eminent conclusion of the 2012 Presidential elections.This election season has been equally entertaining as any Broadway show. Whether it’s the pep rally/Sunday revival that is the nominating conventions or tragic-comedy of Mitt Romney’s comment regarding the “47%.” But ultimately what makes this election theatre is the fact that the political and economic system of this society has been structured to restrict the acceptable terms of debate. How did this happen?

For all those who remember the 2000 elections, in Florida, a controversy developed concerning which votes would be counted in one of the closest presidential elections in US history. After the case was sent to the Supreme Court, the justices in Gore v Bush decided “The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States”. This judicial decision reminds US citizens that in this Republic, not democracy, the Electoral College determines the winner of the election. In short, voting is a privilege, not a right.

At the founding of the US, when this drama was written, only property owning white males could vote. Originally the US senate was decided by the state legislatures.In fact, in agreement with several framers of the US Constitution, James Madison in in Federalist Papers No. 10 explicitly states the he believes the masses should not enter politics because they would want to redistribute wealth. It wasn’t until Blacks, Women and other disenfranchised people engaged in dynamic social movements that they gained the privilege to vote. In a capitalist society, the poor are denied a voice.

More recently, the Supreme Court facilitated the corporate sponsorship of this theatrical production per the Citizens United case. This far sighted judicial decision allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts in election campaigns. Although in 2008 Obama received a record amount of small donations, he received many large donations that helped him reach the record setting $745 million. In a report titled “America for Sale” Sen. Bernie Sanders (D) states the Koch Brothers alone plan to give $400 million.

To a large extent, in 1972, following the Gary Convention, the Black movement began to shift its primary focus from militant grassroots organizing to electoral politics.This strategy has been a major error. The Black Movements primary focus should return to tactics such as the general strike, non-violent civil disobedience, and independent Black-led political organizations. Then, we can end the political theatre and get on the real show called: Liberation!

Benjamin Woods is a PhD candidate at Howard University in Washington, DC.

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