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For the next year and a half you will be subjected to the latest developments in the great contemporary American fairy tale: a presidential campaign.
True, we will get to pick who we want to be Goldilocks and who the big bad bears, but citizen participation in a fantasy doesn’t make it any more real.
There has been over the past few decades a steady deterioration of the political difference between national Democratic and Republican politics, most notably with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Today it is hard to define that difference given the strong bipartisan support for several illegal wars, the unconstitutional Patriot Act, and a bottomless desire to bail out Wall Street, and a stunning indifference to the financial problems of everyone else. On some days it seems like the only thing that stand between Obama and the Republican Party is his voter registration card. Even on his better days he is just ? to borrow a favorite term of his White House a “distraction from the real issues.”
In fact, the political metaphor hardly works anymore. It’s more sensible to regard the two major parties as Mafia mobs fighting for control of a region known as the United States.
This isn’t to say that there isn’t a difference between them. But it’s about survival, however, not politics. The Demos tend to do less damage to our lives than the Repubs. Both mobs may beat the shit out your father, but the Demos are less likely to harm your children or your grandmother.
The importance of this distinction between politics and survival is important because, for one thing, it spares us of the totally false myth that got Obama into office in the first place. Obama turned out to be the Bernie Madoff of the Democratic Party. He conned millions into giving him their hope and change and then ripped them off.
This doesn’t mean that one doesn’t vote for a Demo thug as president or some lower position, but it means that one does so recognizing that the selection of the least dangerous mob in town is a far different matter than backing a political cause.
Once one has made that important distinction the whole nature of politics changes. It is no longer about icons, but about issues. It’s not about elections but about what happens before and after elections. It is no longer about identifying with a party but with a movement.
We are in desperate need of an anti-war movement, an anti-Wall Street movement, an anti-foreclosure movement, and anti-corporate bribery movement, and a new labor movement just to name a few.
Yes, there are wonderful folk attempting to build such movements, but it doesn’t help when liberals and their media constantly lower their goals to Obama’s uncertain, misguided, misleading and unimaginative solutions or when public interest groups adopt the same narrow objectives and insider trading style typical of corporate lobbyists.
If America is to be saved, it will because of movements outside the mainstream political game. It’s always been like that and will continue to be so.
So enjoy the fairy tale that is bubbling up around us. Vote for the bastards who will be do us the least harm. But if you want to be part of the story ? and you are whether you desire it or not ? then that only thing that will really matter is what you do outside the voting booth.
For in the end, there’s nobody who can make a better difference but us.
Sam Smith edits the Progressive Review.