An Election Without Meaning

Will November 2008 bring a meaningful change to America? Will getting rid of George W. Bush and Richard Cheney without impeachment or indictment really make a difference? Will a 600 billion dollar war/defense budget be cut in half and used for desperately needed domestic spending? Will the ninety-three billion dollars profits in the private health insurance companies­­—those parasitic intermediates between you and your doctor—be used instead for full health care coverage for all? Will Habeas Corpus and Posse Comitatus be restored to the people? Will torture stop and the US withdraw from Iraq immediately? Will all students in public universities be able to enroll for free? Will the US national security agencies stop mass spying on our personal communications? Will the neo-conservative agenda of total military domination of the world be reversed?

The answer to these questions in the context of the current billion dollar presidential campaign is an absolute no. Instead we have a campaign of personalities and platitudes. There is a race candidate, a gender candidate and a tortured veteran candidate, each talking about change in America, national security, freedom, and the American way. The candidates are running with support of political parties so deeply embedded with the military industrial complex, the health insurance companies, Wall Street, and corporate media that it is undeterminable where the board rooms separate from the state rooms.

The 2008 presidential race is a media entertainment spectacle with props, gossip, accusations, and public relations. It is impression management from a candidates’ perspective. How can we fool the most people into believing that we stand for something? It is billions of dollars of gravy for the media folks and continued profit maximunization for the war machine, Wall Street, and insurance companies no matter who is determined the winner in November.

We must face the fact that the US government’s primary mission is to protect the wealthy and insure capital expansion worldwide. The US military—spending more than the rest of the militaries of the world combined—is the muscle behind this protect-capital-at-all-costs agenda, and will be used against the American people if deemed necessary to support the mission.

Homeland Security, the North American Command, mass arrest practices with the FALCON raids, new detentions centers, and broadened “terrorism” laws to included interference with business profits are all now in place to insure domestic tranquility through extra judicial means if needed.

The two party corporate political system is having a HOMELAND presidential campaign—Hillary, Obama, McCain, Election, Lacking, Actual, National, Debate. It is time for real change, but it will only come with a social movement of reform in the tradition of the progressive, labor, civil rights, anti-war movements of the last century. We need to use all of our activist, legal, and political resources to reverse these threats to freedom. Naomi Wolf says it is not too late to prevent totalitarianism, but we have to act fast.

Peter Phillips is a professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University, and former director of of Media Freedom Foundation/Project Censored. He wrote his dissertation on the Bohemian Club in 1994. Read other articles by Peter, or visit Peter's website.

33 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. simuvac said on March 22nd, 2008 at 10:59am #

    Only 9/11 Truth can save America.

  2. HR said on March 22nd, 2008 at 11:33am #

    Thanks to the author for another statement of what has been obvious for decades. “The people”, however, have been content to elect monsters like Nixon, Reagan, the Bushes (the younger by nearly a majority, twice), Clinton, and now about half of them are immersed in the meaningless babble of “hope” and “change” being offered by the “two” DNC candidates instead of reaching out to honest-to-goodness progressives like McKinney and Nader, because, naturally, as we all “know” from incessant brainwashing, third party candidates cannot win … unless people vote for them, that is.

  3. Sometimes Saintly Nick said on March 22nd, 2008 at 11:52am #

    I am in complete agreement with you. Yet I fear the electorate has lost its perspective of who are as a nation and who we could be. My observations tell me that more folks are showing interest in this election than at any time since 1968. But the choices remain limited.

  4. Jerry D. Rose said on March 22nd, 2008 at 1:21pm #

    Bravo to Professor Phillips for putting the current U.S. election into the appropriate nutshell; and to HR for putting the necessary meat on the bones of Naomi Wolfe’s warning that we have to “act fast” to prevent totalitarianism from prevailing. There WILL be alternatives to a no-choice election in November, but only if we are willing to forego our usual belief, once ever four years, that we’ll have time enough to act if only we choose the “lesser” of the two “evils” we are being offered by the two parties or, more exactly, the two branches of the one Corporacratic Party. The great illusion of progressives or dissidents today is that Barak Obama is basically “one of us” and that, once in office, a magical alchemy will transform his expressions of support for American imperialism into his becoming the proponent of enlightened internationalism that we so much would like him to be. That’s not going to happen, any more than it would have happened in 04 that the election of Howard Dean would have fulfilled the fantasies of “Deaniacs” that he would become a true progressive, once their grassroots activism got him into the presidency. “Evil” does not come in two sizes, lesser and more-er; if, as Phillips said, you support either McCain, Obama or Clinton you are supporting the same evil. If people could generally come to realize this, and that we have candidates like Nader and McKinney who represent genuine alternatives to corporatocracy, they would realize that they are not alone but with the majority of other Americans, and we could actually win one for democracy. But, as Naomi Wolf says, the time grows short, we must act fast and we must act in the November election. Talk to me! moc.oohaynull@11esordyrrej.

  5. Max Shields said on March 22nd, 2008 at 2:27pm #

    Robert Kennedy in March 1968: “Too much and too long we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values to the mere accumulation of material things…The gross national product measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile, and it can tell us everything about America—except whether we are proud to be Americans.” (Address, University of Kansas, March 18, 1968)

  6. hp said on March 22nd, 2008 at 3:36pm #

    After the last two elections, don’t you get the feeling you might be voting to let Diebold and company vote for you?

  7. Dave said on March 22nd, 2008 at 3:41pm #

    This article echoes my feelings perfectly. The government is nothing but a big infotainment extravaganza, complete with everything but real substance. Of course, no country can survive very long when things are this blatantly askew. The day of reckoning beckons…

  8. hp said on March 22nd, 2008 at 3:45pm #

    I guess we could look at it as voting on who is the most irrelevant. The President or us.

  9. Jerry D. Rose said on March 22nd, 2008 at 4:23pm #

    Dave, I agree with you that the “day of reckoning” beckons, but the point of my post is that it beckons more urgently than some kind of Jeremiad (pardon the expression) that rails against a coming cataclysm. That “day” is now, in my humble, or more exactly every day between now and the November elections, in which we must NOT elect another “lesser evil” and which, to expand the point a bit, we must NOT re-elect all those corporacratic members of Congress just because they are incumbents and we think that they can “do more for” our individual communities. I call myself and my website a Sun State (Florida) Activist and I’m not as active as I could or should be, but I ain’t so passive as to wring my hands and wait for the inevitable calamity to occur. Scrooge got a second chance after the spirit of Christmas future told him the horrors of his personal future that were displayed for him were things that would only happen if he continued with life as he had been living it. As we know, Scrooge woke up to realize he hadn’t missed Christmas and lived the rest of his life impeccably. May we all have that Scrooge moment when we wake up the day after election day (belated Irish blessing.)

  10. Lloyd Rowsey said on March 23rd, 2008 at 6:09am #

    Before reading this article and its posts, I want to provide a link to an excellent and obviously-related piece I just read at White Light Black Light, the finest website for politicsandart I’ve ever run across.

    The piece I refer to is the fourth piece on the page, it’s titled “The Poverty of the Presidential Campaign,” and it’s authored by “Sam Smith over at the Progressive Review.”

  11. TK Wilson said on March 23rd, 2008 at 6:36am #

    The current system of government in this country is not open to meaningful legal reform. The obstructions are built in. Any change has to originate externally and the system actively fights any threats to its hegemony.
    Almost all the principles are in cahoots, at least as regards the existence of the system itself, and the system is the problem.
    We’ve been lead to believe that our system of government is self repairing when in fact it is broken beyond repair and must be replaced if we are to survive.
    What will change it is the same thing that brought down the wall; mass civil intent to make it stop. US elections are an obscene farce at best, and they may well be a fatal distraction, unless we as a people wake the fuck up right now.

    Considering the fact that we are descending hard into a depression the likes of which the world has never seen, this may happen. On the other hand it could result in Nazi-ism on Steroids.

  12. Michael Kenny said on March 23rd, 2008 at 6:36am #

    “We must face the fact that the US government’s primary mission is to protect the wealthy and insure capital expansion worldwide.” Yes, but the beauty is that it doesn’t have the means to do that anymore. The military defeats in Afghanistan and Iraq have discredited US military power and destroyed the myth of American invincibility. Dragging the “allies” into those fights has alienated their populations and destroyed the source of cannon fodder they were supposed to represent. The diplomatic defeat over Iran further reinforces American weakness and the only question left is whether or not to hand total victory to the Iranians by launching an ineffectual attack on it.

    With the “sheriff” lying dead in the Mesopotamian dust, the logic of using the dollar as the world reserve currency has disappeared, so the dollar is falling in value. Thus, no military hegemony, no high dollar, but no high dollar, no means of re-constituting the military!

    Thus, it doesn’t really matter who is on the bridge of the USS Titanic next January, the ship is heading straight for the iceberg while the Ben Bernanke Ensemble plays soothing music in the first class lounge! I would guess that the elite can see all of this and that would explain the lackluster campaign. POTUS 44, whoever he/she is, will be the American Gorbachev, put in power to save the system but who pulls the thread which unravles the whole edifice.

  13. Lloyd Rowsey said on March 23rd, 2008 at 6:45am #

    I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping you are right, Michael. But to paraphrase a previous post elsewhere at DV: a friend of mine in Texas compares the Chipmunk to a unpopular student who loads up, goes in, and blows away as many classmates as possible in order to go out in a blaze of glory.

    What part of the US. Navy do you think will ignore George Bush II’s command to launch against Teheran?

  14. Lloyd Rowsey said on March 23rd, 2008 at 6:46am #

    HOMELAND is priceless, Peter.

  15. Jerry D. Rose said on March 23rd, 2008 at 8:37am #

    Lloyd Rowsey (first post on this thread). I’ve read with interest your link to the piece by Sam Smith over at the Progressive Review and I find it to be all-too-common cop-out for those reluctant to take any kind of political action in the face of the power of the Corporacratic Party to throw up candidates of “lesser and more-er evil” between which voters are forced to choose. To say, as does Smith, that a candidate like Nader who gets a half percent of the presidential vote somehow “legitimizes” the system that produced that miniscule support for an independent candidate, is to employ a reasoning that escapes my limited understanding. I’m much more inclined to the view of Eli Stephens whom Smith (tries to) criticize, that every vote for an independent candidate is a voice in opposition to the constraints of a supposedly two-party system that is in fact one party with two branches. To advocate, as Smith seems to do, that those dissatisfied with the system simply stay home, not vote and perhaps work on reforms of the “social realities” of our country, is to discourage whatever small voice of protest could begin to challenge that system. (Talk about “legitimation!)

  16. Lloyd Rowsey said on March 23rd, 2008 at 8:55am #

    Good points, JDR. But I suggest you search on Marcelle Cendrars in the DV search box at the top. She and others, border-line-anarchists if that’s not being flippant, are aiming at winning the Cal gubnatorial race in 2010, precisely by a strategy that motivates-by-encouraging-armchair-activists, musicians, and artists, although that characterization iss doubtless a slight oversimplification.

    To the best of my knowledge, Marcelle and friends are presently decamped somewhere in Italy. Trading a country that has neither awareness nor shame for a country that accepts corruption and political murder with quiet resignation, if not pride.

  17. John Greenwood said on March 23rd, 2008 at 9:12am #

    What a fascinating article and commentary. And what, pray tell would replace this corrupt system. Worse tyranny and suffering, I’m afraid, if many of the ideas expressed here were implemented.

  18. Deadbeat said on March 23rd, 2008 at 12:22pm #

    What the author writes is all true but missing from his great observation is how to ENGAGE the masses and how to motivate the masses. The “left” missed a great opportunity in 2003-2004 to engage people who were against the war to coalesce this movement. At that time even Noam Chomsky stated that the next great force in the world was the people as they came out in great numbers against the war. Then why did the “left” fail at that great moment. I’ve given my perspective on this and I’m sure there are other perspectives. But the “left’s” failure created the vacuum that is now being filled by what we are seeing this year. The “Obamamania” especially is the residual effect of the “left’s” failure. I’m not sure what it will take to get the public attention and the kind of energy and action among the public like we saw in 2003-2004.

    In the U.S. IMO there is no “working class”. It seem that people like Nader and McKinney are on the “fringes”. They are not “radicals” by any means. However their ideas IMO doesn’t seem to have any connection among even with a significant portion of the population. The population seems to be stuck between the two parties and IMO the only solution for the “left” right now is for the Democratic Party to implode by nominating Hillary Clinton or for McCain to win the general election.

    But that again is rather reactive than proactive but I just don’t see any traction on the “left” right now to make the kind of difference that the author talks about.

  19. Jerry D. Rose said on March 23rd, 2008 at 1:23pm #

    Professor Phillips has shown us the darkness of our political night and HR and I have tried to light a candle toward finding a way out. With some of the posters on this thread I get the feeling that they would rather curse the darkness than find a way out. Say it ain’t so, folks!

  20. Lloyd Rowsey said on March 23rd, 2008 at 1:44pm #

    JDR. Phillips, you and HR have tried to find a way out? I don’t read any “way out” in Phillips’ article or in your posts. Any more than I read a way out at:

  21. Lloyd Rowsey said on March 23rd, 2008 at 1:48pm #

    In the article:

    The Poverty of the Presidential Campaign

    which is located at:

  22. Giorgio said on March 23rd, 2008 at 2:02pm #

    The answer to all the introductory questions is, of course, a resounding : NO
    But do you really know why?
    I will tell you why, and it’s simply this:
    The American Left, call them Liberals, Progressives, whatever, ARE as blind as BATS ! And they so enamoured with their stale Idealisms that they can’t see a good thing even if it’s there in front of their noses staring at their faces….
    There is only ONE candidate in this current presidential fanfare that would turn most, if not ALL, of those questions into a resounding YES!
    Do you know why the Left does not care about him?
    An ostracised Republican, at best, shunned by the cowardly media and even denied access to the debates…
    Of course you know now: it’s RON PAUL !
    A man of principles and integrity. When last did you see a presidential candidate with such impeccable credentials?
    The truth is that even with the Left’s support he will never be nominated because of the rigged electoral process.
    But as Ron Paul has stated: elections are short term events…
    Whereas REVOLUTIONS are a long term process. Being a realist, he’s focussing more on the latter! GOOD LUCK to this great medical doctor!
    He’s delivered over 4000 babies in his long medical career, may he now DELIVER US FROM THE EVIL of such warmongering perverts as Bush, ‘that Woman’, Obama, McCain, etcetera, etcetera, etc…..

  23. Deadbeat said on March 23rd, 2008 at 2:16pm #

    I’m much more inclined to the view of Eli Stephens whom Smith (tries to) criticize, that every vote for an independent candidate is a voice in opposition to the constraints of a supposedly two-party system that is in fact one party with two branches.

    I agree with you about voting for Nader. However, and let’s face reality. In 2004, the “left” did everything they could to not coalesce behind him. They went for the “Anybody but Bush/Safe State/Blame Nader” strategy.

    This year both Nader and McKinney essentially neutralizes the impact of each other. It would have been preferable for them to coalesce into one ticket to make their message stronger and their respective numbers meaningful.

    Also the Obama factor has captured interest of people of color and other “progressives” who would perhaps consider McKinney.

    To me the issue is voting. The issue is cohesion and consolidation of the progressive voices such as Nader and McKinney. The fact that Nader decided to run outside of the Green Party demonstrates their internal weakness. A weakness that I don’t see McKinney overcoming.

    Therefore there is a huge vacuum on the left and while I don’t necessarily disagree with your perspective or that of the author I think there needs to be some discussion as to the state of the “left” and why the left could not build upon the energy and activism that occurred in 2003-2004. IMO, understanding what is wrong will help find solution to the current crisis on the left.

    My take is that should Obama win the Democratic Party nomination this will set the left back. It will certainly create confusion and conflict with people of color who is especially necessary to building a solid left.

    I get the feeling that they would rather curse the darkness than find a way out. Say it ain’t so, folks!

    I don’t think that people are “cursing the darkness” but in order to know which direction to take in order to find the light you need to know where you are.

  24. Deadbeat said on March 23rd, 2008 at 2:31pm #

    Giorgio you are right about Ron Paul’s position on the war and in general his position toward U.S. imperial interventionism. However the reason why the “left” was concerned about Paul has to do with his economic programs that many people feared would harm most especially the poor and people of color.

    There were members of the left who supported Paul due to his anti-war position and was will to take the risk of fighting Paul’s economic plan and it caused a great deal of consternation.

    Both factions are weak and many Americans are confused and distrusting of labels. But IMO I think the left has to really working on developing some cohesion first and be willing to engage.

  25. hp said on March 23rd, 2008 at 3:04pm #

    And the women and abortion.
    The so-called left will watch the whole thing go up in smoke rather than give up on their “pet” position(s).
    Like the super rich who will lose it all for fear of losing a part of it.

  26. hp said on March 23rd, 2008 at 3:06pm #

    A blind Martian could see the ONLY choice is Ron Paul, but obviously idealism trumps realism in the minds of the dreamers.

  27. Deadbeat said on March 23rd, 2008 at 3:21pm #

    A blind Martian could see the ONLY choice is Ron Paul, but obviously idealism trumps realism in the minds of the dreamers.

    LOL. Very astute.

  28. Jerry D. Rose said on March 23rd, 2008 at 3:59pm #

    I’m very glad to see the dialogue continuing in these posts and only hope that some more folks with valuable viewpoints will jump on to join the several of us who are multiple-posters on the site. Thank you, Dissident Voice, for making this so easy to happen.

    In speaking of “lighting a candle” I wasn’t thinking of a powerful flashlight which would show an easy way out of our political darkness. I only meant to contrast our faltering efforts to find our way with those, like Sam from Progressive View who offer little hope beyond the possibility of a confluence of calamitous events (all too probable I fear) and a charismatic leader, for both of which conditions we must wait in the dark until we are rescued by these external factors, and I just think there is more room for the left movement to MOVE politically, with all our notorious inability to unite efforts in a single direction. I do want to comment on those who dismiss McKinney in particular as an alternative; isn’t it a bit early for us to pre-emptively say no to a candidate who is not yet and may not be a candidate if the Greens don’t nominate her? To be “pragmatic” about it (apart from the strength of her progressive agenda): when he are today, lamentably, engaged in “identity politics” in which half of Democrats want to support a woman and another half (blacks and white liberals) want to support a black for President, how about if we “compromise” and nominate a black woman? (making history doubly; wouldn’t the sensation-mongering media love that?)

    But back to Sam’s perspective: if Naomi Wolf is right (and I think she is), we are far closer to a global meltdown financially, environmentally and militarily than we yet have any idea; so the enabling condition of “external” calamity that will be necessary to precipitate a change is at hand; and no election of a McCain, Obama or Clinton that leaves us with a presidency beholden to the corporate forces which are the only ones benefitting from these disasters, is going to staunch the wounds that we are about to receive. I’m all for “building a movement” as many advocate; but an active political campaign in this season can only promote that building, and give us a candle light of at least of a start on a post “katrina” re-building of the world that is about to the destroyed. (My mother didn’t name me Jerry for nothing).

  29. Joe Mowrey said on March 23rd, 2008 at 5:10pm #

    Short, sweet and to the point. If you are voting in 08, you are a part of the problem, not a part of the solution. A massive march on Washington D.C. and the nerve centers of the corporate media in New York City on election day are our only hope for the future of this planet. In other words, there is no hope. The American sheeple have no clue and will line up at the electoral slaughterhouse in November as per usual. Baahh, baahhh, baahh. We are doomed.

  30. Roger said on March 23rd, 2008 at 10:04pm #

    You’ve had your chance but sadly you chose not to take it.

    The outcome of this election is as irrelevant to democracy as the American public is that ultimately doesn’t care about the subjugation of its basic rights.

  31. Mike McNiven said on March 23rd, 2008 at 11:51pm #

    Dr.Phillips, somehow, by accident?, you did not mention imperialism and zionism! The world is tired of the US sponsorship of those two!

  32. HR said on March 24th, 2008 at 11:35am #

    Lloyd, voting for Nader or McKinney is beginning to a way out, provided enough people cast such votes. That, and not voting for corporate candidates for “congressional” seats. Trouble is, the U.S. herd won’t do that, choosing instead to vote for whatever crap the corporate party (and the Chamber of Commerce) shovels into its trough, at all levels of government.

  33. hp said on March 27th, 2008 at 5:59pm #

    “Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.”
    H. L. Mencken