“Politics is the shadow cast on society by big business… the attenuation of the shadow will not change the substance…”
John Dewey, 1859-1952
The bad moon of another campaign season rises. The depoliticized, disinformed, and disengaged American electorate twitch in their culture-coffins. Soon they will be urged to arise and plod across the dim landscape. Robotically they will stand in line to perform their ritual; attempting to hungrily suck meaning from the wizened and bloodless corpse of a rumored democracy. Then, still famished, they will return to their vaults. But the moon will rise again, and so will they — on and on.
It’s that time again in Obamanation, where two corporate-approved candidates and their running-mates cluster on the right side of the arena. The Anointed signal over the heads of their fans to the funders in the posh VIP suites above the faux-fray. McCain is Able, his sponsors assure the audience. He has the proven character to bomb civilian power plants and irrigation projects. Though he admits to not knowing much about economic issues, he clings tenaciously to Laffer-ism, the totally discredited notion that cutting taxes on rich folks and their corporations increases Treasury revenue.
In a grotesque and Rove-ian move he passed over his ally, apologist, and prompter, Jihad Joe Lieberman for the VP spot in favor of proven breeder, exploiter, and weapon wielder Sarah Palin. As governor of Alaska, Palin consistently sided with oil, mining, and “safari” interests, including those who enjoy shooting fleeing wolves from the comfort of airplanes. Now that she’s officially tapped, some questions are arising about the “vetting” process behind her cynical nomination.
But as John Dolan noted to AlterNet readers (9/2/08), “Perhaps the saddest aspect of Palin’s disgusting record on environmental issues is the fact that it’s hardly even being mentioned in the debate about her nomination. Most of the focus, for an audience of suckers weaned on celebrity gossip, seems to be about her mothering skills, her daughter’s pregnancy and whether she was Miss Congeniality or just a runner-up in some beauty pageant. The fact that she makes her living helping to wipe out whole species, poison productive watersheds and play to the … great-white-hunter fantasies of her constituency hardly seems worth a mention.”
Obama, and his hair-plugged hack of a VP contestant are long on empty oratory and eager to partition Iraq while escalating the carnage in Afghanistan. But as Michael Yates has written recently (CP, 8/26), “Obama has failed to say anything meaningful” about issues of importance to working people: “Will he make the Occupational Safety and Health Act a real law and not the dead letter it is now. Will he engineer a public works program that rebuilds the infrastructure of … forgotten [mill] towns and puts their people back to work?… Will he do something about public education and get rid of the corporate-inspired No Child Left Behind legislation? …Stop wasting billions of dollars on … criminal wars? Demand that unions be made legal in Iraq?”
Yates notes that Obama’s labeling corporate shill and gaffe-meister Joe Biden as “’working class’ … tells us just how lame U.S. politics are.” Still, he laments, “Obama might have won over the voters Hillary Clinton got by pretending she was still a working class woman from Scranton, while she slugged down shots and beers in [Pennsylvania] bars. He could have intertwined his hand with the hand of the white worker, like the emblem of the old Packinghouse Workers Union, and gone out on the stump and told the truth about class struggle. A lot of white workers would have eaten this up.”
Such solidarity-based electoral politics is a practical impossibility at present of course. As professor Paul Street, wrote in his Brave New America piece recently, “The popular majority of the citizens —the People — in whose name U.S. ‘democracy’ purports to function is politically disinterested, infantilized, obedient, distracted, and divided. An increasingly spectator-ized and subordinate public is shepherded by the professional political class across a painfully narrow business and Empire-friendly field of political, policy, and ideological ‘choices.’”
He quotes from Sheldon Wolin’s new book Democracy Inc. : Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism : “The citizenry, supposedly the source of government power and authority as well as participant, has been replaced by the ‘electorate,’ that is, by voters who acquire a political life at election time. During the intervals between elections the political existence of the citizenry is relegated to a shadow-citizenship of virtual participation. Instead of participating in power, the virtual citizen is invited to have ‘opinions’ : measurable responses to questions to questions predesigned to elicit them….”
“…In elections parties set out to mobilize the citizen-as-voter, to define political obligation as fulfilled by the casting of a vote. Afterwards, post-election politics of lobbying, repaying donors, and promoting corporate interests — the real players — takes over. The effect is to demobilize the citizenry, to teach them not to be involved or to ponder matters that are either settled or beyond their efficacy.”
Street notes that this evolving new totalitarian system “requires no great sacrifice or strength on the part of its subject populace. It creates a ‘soft,’ childish, and fearful citizenry that is asked mainly to buy things, to watch their telescreens, and perhaps to occasionally vote…”
And so another tawdry and demeaning campaign season begins in arenas named by and for corporations. Outside these “secure” sites, journalists and dissenters to empire/ “managed democracy” are bloodied, roughed up and arrested by latter-day Praetorian Guards. The debased, diversionary jibes and twaddle spewing out of these coliseums, feverishly reported by the corporate press would sicken and shame a truly sovereign people.
But here, as the sun sets on what’s left of America the Dutiful, we stir ever so slightly. November night will soon descend.
Briefly emerging from our comfy-crypts, The Time is upon us again.
RICHARD RHAMES is a dirt-farmer in Biddeford, Maine (just north of the Kennebunkport town line).