The election results are in from the latest pretense at democracy in the U.S. The outcome was as predictable as the sun rising. Nonetheless, it would be helpful to analyze the implications of this charade:
1. There is no meaningful distinction to be found between the mainstream leaders of the Democratic Party and the majority of Republicans. They are one and the same for all intents and purposes. Unlike the Republocrats, Tea Party fanatics, xenophobic patriots and racist zealots constitute the “theoretical” leadership of, and the spokespeople for, the rhetoric of the Republican Party. With the backing of corporate billionaires such as the Koch Brothers, these arch right-wing forces set the agenda for political debate in the country. Progressive individuals, leftists and human rights activists have no significant voice whatsoever in the current electoral picture.
As Ted Rall states in his new book, The Book of Obama: From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt:
The election itself is largely inconsequential – regardless of who wins, Romney or Obama, the system will continue its inexorable move to the right in favor of corporate interests.
…the choice isn’t between Obama and Romney, but rather between ‘Obamney’ and taking to the streets to effect real change.
2. Right-wing forces control the money in the U.S., and with the help of the Citizens United decision issued by the Bush Supreme Court, they can win virtually any race that is important to them. In California, the tobacco industry paid for a victory to prevent further taxation on its murderous product. The Scott Walker machine in Wisconsin defeated a nationwide campaign waged by what’s left of the union movement. Jared Huffman, a mainline Democratic Party hack handily defeated Norman Solomon, a candidate with true progressive credentials. The list goes on and on.
The sad reality is that a dumbed-down American public has lost the capacity to think critically. A well-financed propaganda campaign on television could probably persuade the American citizenry to elect Adolph Hitler over F.D.R., and given the fact that Republicans and mainstream Democrats have the ability to outspend the poor at the ratio of 20 to 1, the election results are a foregone conclusion. Although the majority of people in Wisconsin voted for Scott Walker, they voted more so against the union pension benefits, and salaries of unionized public employees. It was not a matter of disrespecting the police, firemen and teachers, who constituted the majority of public workers impacted by Walker’s actions; rather the voters felt that the cops, firemen, and teachers did not need the generous retirement packages they were receiving at a time when the rest of the workers in the state were struggling to get by. Obama and the Democratic Party itself opted out of the entire debate.
3. The best of the progressive candidates are out of touch with their own constituency. I am on the mailing list of several “progressive” candidates, some of whom have actually gone to the legislature. I receive regular and consistent solicitations for money from each of them. I never receive another word from them, though, until it is time for them to run for re-election. In other words, the message is clear: the candidates and elected officials want to know what I can do for them, not what they can do for me. They apparently feel that I should be aware of their votes, actions, and great deeds on my behalf. Unfortunately, what I see is not their wonderful accomplishments, but rather, the complete deterioration of our electoral system, health care, educational institutions, protections for the old and the infirm, and the commensurate enrichment of corporate fascism and unregulated militarism, at home and abroad. Their isolated, principled voices somewhere in the halls of some government building go unheeded with barely an echo to accompany them.
If Norman had won, if Walker had been defeated, if Barbara Lee were to quit office tomorrow, or Bill Monning were to win re-election yet another time, it would not change what Rall describes as “the inexorable move to the right.” No amount of money raised by progressive forces will create a majority of those elected in any state in the country, and certainly won’t deter the likes of Obamney and their corporate handlers. The imbalance of wealth between the oligarchy and the people is so great that we will never, for the rest of our lives, be able to match their propaganda and political bribery — not until there is a revolution, and a redistribution of capital. The best we can hope for, if we are to rely on our own ability to raise funds for these elections, is a token number of victories – probably not even amounting to 5% of those elected.
4. Given that economic reality facing Americans, is Rall correct that our only hope for success is “in the streets?” That preposterous suggestion goes nowhere. Change does not occur in a vacuum. A social and economic revolution cannot occur without an organized resistance – one with a unified leadership and points of unity. Attempts by anarchistic groups such as OWS or similar spontaneous militant uprisings, cannot hope to overthrow the U.S. oligarchy and military/police apparatus. Certainly such groups can create significant problems for the rich, but there can be no meaningful change in this country that does not share several essential points of unity:
- unregulated corporate capitalism is the enemy;
- run-away imperialism will impoverish the entire nation, and turn the world against us;
- racism (imprisoning 1/3 of the African Americans throughout the country) and anti-immigrant hysteria are not solutions to social problems, but are the root cause of many of them; and,
- allowing untaxed billionaire corporate oligarchs to determine the economic future of the country is suicidal.
Militant, unorganized resistance is a precursor to revolution, but it can never be a substitute. Without a political framework the current electorate is left with the Republocrats, or nothing. In such a context, railing against the state is meaningless. The progressive voters of Wisconsin are sitting in the same situation they were in before the election: they have built nothing outside of the framework of the Republican/Democratic parties that can assure victory when Scott comes up for reelection. They will have to start over with the same deadbeat political apparatus that got them into trouble in the first place.
It would be easy to believe that the American public is so stupid, vulnerable and apolitical that it doesn’t know where its own interest lies, and would vote for whatever self-destructive position the closest billionaire might demand. Alternatively, the public is correct that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans represent their interest at all, and another vehicle for leadership must be found and/or created. If we can’t decide who should lead us, we should at least be able to agree upon what goals we would like to accomplish. This will require significant changes, many of which cannot be effectuated in a voting booth.