Our word “elect” comes from the latin eligere meaning to pick out or choose. Bourgeois democracy celebrates the etymological sense of this word in elections. However, what, exactly, are we the people actually choosing?
The argument has been made by Marx, Badiou, and Chomsky among others that we do not so much as choose in elections as having parties, platforms, and candidates chosen for us.
Every politician in the Western “democracies” has to go through a complex vetting process which assures those truly in power that they, at best, will become paper tigers that will do their bidding and no more. Those foolish enough not to play by the rules will be eliminated by either defamation, extortion, or even, in the final instance, downright murder(JFK? MLK?).
However, those who now enter Western politics are well aware of the rules as well as the ultimate nature of the game. They knowingly enter the theater that is modern Western politics without any intention to fundamentally challenge either system or elites.
Yet, the electorate must in some sense be satiated. And that is done through a combination of spectacle, marginal issues, or at best policies which can be safely co opted by ruling elites.
Creating an appearance of change, of participation, of self empowerment even of crisis is crucial as long as the actual outcomes are handily managed by those with the most to loose.
Yes, on occasion compromises are made. But these, in the long run, are only undertaken to further enhance the long term power of elites.
Hence, personality and platitude become the very life blood of Western politics. We focus on biography, psychology, and style as if these individual components could ever budge the Sisyphean rock that is our daily political penance.
Issues, policies, and outcomes are all carefully manufactured and managed by a small number of power elites. The media, political parties, security forces (psych-ops), even the mafia and intellectual and artistic elites all work together to shape a political simulacrum within which our limited discourses and actions circulate.
To be sure, just as political actors are co opted into the system so, too, are ideas. The system is amazingly good at acknowledging, absorbing, and, then, transforming even the most radical challenges until they are just so much mush under the weight of the economic and social interests of American/Global oligarchy.
Yes, things change but according to the timetable of the powerful who are skillful in their manipulation of any political impulse that may percolate below. In the end, the people may make waves but, ultimately, the oligarchic elites will shape and ride them to their self-appointed shores.