Opinion polls reveal, not surprisingly, that the public has little confidence and trust in politicians. Politicians are overwhelmingly comprised of Democrats and Republicans, but this distrust has yet to manifest itself in a repudiation of these two political parties. No paradox here. The public, so far, is not equipped to shake off the grip that the Democrats and Republicans hold over society. In a pathetic twist, it is in these indirectly discredited parties that a nation’s hopes are eternally placed.
Here’s a common example of voter frustration, call it I’ll-remember-this-in-the-booth. Voter A dislikes officeholder B’s public positions and announces to the world that, come November, the people are going to remember and goodbye officeholder B. This remonstration resets with each term because goodbye does not mean hello to anything substantially different, promising continual frustration. Lacking another remedy, voter A clings to the illusion of the ballot box as the mechanism for change.
Since a politician’s primary allegiance is to party, and since Democrats and Republicans comprise a duopoly over the political spectrum, the ballot box is definitely not an instrument of change. Both parties are consumed with the perpetuation of their own power and loyal careerists (party “housemen/women”) who do their part stand to be rewarded. Party goals are what comes out of the ballot box, while propagandists craft a story of a citizenry engaged in the affairs of the nation.
The West used to mock Stalin’s elections, where his was the sole party on the ballot, but the election was important nonetheless. People did show up and vote, and voting, even if only for a single candidate, can be pointed to as a symbol of validation of the system.
Here we have two parties. That’s one party better. More accurately, we have two parties with power. The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) sees to that. I wonder how many people understand that the independent sounding CPD is actually a corporation founded, joint-owned, and run by the Democratic and Republican parties. They don’t make a point of this on their website. It’s deceptively labeled “nonpartisan”.
The role the CPD plays is to place obstacles in the way of rival challenging parties. That’s as far as their nonpartisanship goes. Their criteria for participation in the general election presidential debates include requiring that the candidates name appears on “enough state ballots to have at least a mathematical chance at securing an electoral college majority”, and “that the candidate have a level of support of at least 15% of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations”.
Since both entrenched parties serve wealthy and powerful elites, and since money is the predominant factor in politics, we can guess at the mathematical chance of a rival party candidate meeting the protective criteria. We’re propagandized to do our duty and vote, but voting validates a system rigged for, and by, the Democratic and Republican parties. It only encourages them.
Party allegiances and political careerism (that could be modestly alleviated through enactment of single term limits) made it possible for an aggressive Republican administration to invade, occupy, and subsequently, devastate Iraq, and for a weak Democratic Congress, that saw it as an existential threat to oppose it, to aid in its complicity.
In my local area, the Republican Party is giving us a candidate for 20th Congressional District Representative from its Permanent War faction. “I think Congress should declare war on Al Qaeda.”. “… we need to form a Joint Inter-Agency Task Force similar to the World War II Office of Strategic Services…. this joint body must have the authority and military capability to move quickly and decisively against any terrorist group anywhere on the globe whenever it deems the moment right.”
Sounds a little like Arizona, where the state now has the authority and police capability to move against Mexicans whenever it deems the moment right. Incidentally, when the strongest argument from the new law’s supporters is that the state law merely mirrors the federal law so leave us alone, it invites this: What makes you think we like the federal law?
One further quote from our Permanent War candidate stands out: “…we must convince the world that we are fighting to not only protect our cherished way of life but to save all of civilization from the diabolical designs of Al Qaeda.”
The “world” has good reason to think that we are the biggest threat to peace and is not so naïve to believe that we have a military presence in over 100 of the world’s countries for the benefit of civilization. If the situation was reversed, and it was a foreign country with this military presence, along with our record of hostile interventions, we ourselves might be skeptical about their altruistic claims.
The big question: What can be done to break the back of the Democratic and Republican parties? First, it would be nice for the masses (those who already vote) to be sufficiently aware that the answer to their hopes and prayers do not lie with the same forces that have made them hope and pray for a better, fairer way. Let’s say we are partway there because distrust runs high, even though the parties themselves retain immunity. In a similar manner, a president may be intensely disliked but there still remains immunity for the office. Why? Because it’s been there a long time. And so have the parties.
Let’s do a thought experiment. Suppose the creation of a new political party called, The Left (just so there’s no doubt). It hasn’t been there for a long time but it might attract progressive Democrats, Greens, some Libertarians, Socialists, Unionists, working people, poor people, disgruntled people. There would be no support from major political donors. But it wouldn’t have to die for the simple reason that it outnumbered the opposition. It’s the larger class (pardon the expression).
Of course, simply outnumbering the opposition would not be sufficient, because this has long been the case and it has done nothing to stem the upward flow of wealth and the disproportionate, continued sacrifice of the dispensable class in imperialistic wars. The established parties have a steady stream of funding and a propaganda theme that links their existence and fate with that of an abstract, beloved nation. That’s been enough, but it’s short of a gun to the head.
In another thought experiment, let’s consider what an active voting boycott might yield, active meaning that the voter goes into the booth, and returns a blank ballot. This signifies that the citizen/voter does not recognize the legitimacy of a system that is preordained to elect either a Republican or a Democrat, and is unwilling to participate by rote in the election ritual.
We don’t know what kind of effect this protest will have, but what we do know is that at a sufficient level of cast non-ballots, hysteria will set in amongst the Establishment. All they have is a game, and all they require is that it be played. This is the vastly preferred, and highly cultivated, “soft” control over the population. The achievement of this game is that the population is led to believe it is controlling “things”, when the outcome is that the population ends up controlling “itself”.
This is a game that few would want to play if only they recognized it for what it is. So recognition comes first. We’re partway there.
JAMES ROTHENBERG can be reached at: email@example.com