Too many Americans harbor the illusion that we live in a democracy simply because we have the right to vote. But let us be clear about something: voting matters only where real choices are allowed. It is universally understood that special interest money runs the American political system and thus defines what the choices will be. So we are left to choose between candidates who are financed by special interest money, which any fool can see, is no choice at all.
The system is purposely designed to require enormous expense from its participants. According to the very mainstream USA Today, the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics predicts that $2.6 billion will be spent on Congressional races this year alone, which thus precludes any third party candidate, as well as ordinary people, from all but token participation. It requires big money to win political office and big money comes from the deep pockets of corporate America. In effect, special interest money has rendered the political process as we know it null and void by restricting our choices to candidates that have been pre-chosen for us by corporate America.
The choice is more illusory than real. Plutocrats and workers have nothing in common. People of ordinary means can no longer ascend to the presidency or even Congress. The composition of both the state and federal governments are very different from the socio-economic demographics of the populations they are supposed to represent, and it is no accident. Regardless where you look the rich are represented and the great majority is excluded.
So if the Democrats wrest control of the government from the hands of the Republicans, it will be because conservative Democrats won some important races, precluding any progressive mandate from coming into play. On the whole the nation will remain well to the right of center, and certainly will not progress toward the left. The bulk of the corporate money will reverse direction and flow from the Republicans into the coffers of the Democrats. The corporations will retain control.
One can cast protest votes, as I often do, for candidates who do not accept special interest money, but they are rarely, if ever, contenders. It requires huge sums of money to get media exposure, and to get on state ballots, yet alone contend for the prize. The system is designed to preclude challenges to the status quo, which leaves us to choose between Republicrats fielded by corporate backers.
Corporate money so owns the political process that voters are left to choose only between the finer nuances of the capital system, and between degrees of corruption. Ultimately the choice is between lesser evils, which speak volumes about the state of decay of American politics. Good never springs from evil, so we witness the steady moral decline of a nation mired in corruption and confusion.
There is nothing benign about corporate financiers who hedge their bets by supporting candidates of the major parties. Corporate CEOs are not philanthropists interested in the well being of America. They are motivated by greed and profits, and when they finance political campaigns, make no mistake about it; they are renting or buying politicians who will help them achieve their objectives.
Special interest money is a malignancy that grows in the bowels of government, and it must be removed lest it kill the host.
A system in which the high rollers and fat cats feed upon the bloated corpses of the tax payers and is accountable to no one should be an affront to all decent people of every political stripe. Let us see the political system in America for what it is, and for the cruel hoax that it has always been.
The corporate financing of political campaigns is, in fact, a capital investment in the status quo that benefits the wealthy and marginalizes those with neither wealth nor property. That explains why substantive change is rarely accomplished through the vote in America. It also explains the remarkable consistency and homogeneity of governmental policy through the decades; domestic and foreign, regardless of which party is in power.
Those policies have consistently accrued wealth and influence to the rich by exploiting the working class, and with disastrous results for the world. It has resulted in war after war, occupation after occupation; and the systematic overthrow of democracies everywhere.
The corporations and their puppets in government are realizing enormous profits from the system, and they will not allow significant or radical change from within the existing order. The system cannot and will not be reformed; the money changers will not allow it.
Now the great majority of the population is disenfranchised and left out of the equation. Only those with wealth are allowed to play. Money talks and those who do not have an abundance of wealth are without voice in a political system awash in cash and corruption.
If working class people were running the government, rather than wealthy Plutocrats, we would not be in the current predicament that threatens to engulf us, and we would have avoided many of the pitfalls that have trapped us in the past. We would never have experienced a Viet Nam War, there would have been no invasion and occupation of Iraq; and we would have socialized health care and decent schools like other industrialized nations, rather than tax cuts for the rich and massive corporate welfare.
There is a huge difference between a government of the people and corporate ‘for profit’ governance. America would be a much better place without corporate rule, and unquestionably the world would be better off and much safer.
I am not sure what the solution is to the dilemma we have created for ourselves through detachment, indifference and apathy. I do know, however, that doing the same thing over and over will assure a similar result to what we have gotten in the past. At some point we must acknowledge the illegitimacy of the political process, and see it for the prostitution and the sham that it is. It is incapable of producing just results or the change we need in order to become a Democracy.
There are no easy ways out of the morass we have created. It may be that another tea party similar to the one enacted at Boston Harbor over two hundred years ago is the only cure for what ails us. I survive on the hope that eventually enough good people will arrive at a similar conclusion, and that we will effect change directly in the streets of America. That is what I would call participatory Democracy, and it would be a thing of beauty to behold.
CHARLES SULLIVAN is a photographer, free lance writer and social activist living in West Virginia. He welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.