I have always been interested in politics and still am but as time goes by my focus has shifted from electoral politics to mass movement politics. I simply cannot get too interested in the 2012 presidential and congressional elections, except insofar as they shed some light on the state of the nation. I still follow the process, but cursorily and with detachment and amusement, the way that I follow sports. I will check the results and the standings but the outcomes do not stir in me the passions they once did. It is mass movement politics on which I pin my hopes of creating a more just society.
Matt Taibbi captures my feelings almost exactly in this article, saying many of the things I have been saying, but more interestingly. In a single essay he lays bare the corrupt reality that elections in the US have become. He notes that in 94% of the races, the candidate who raises the most money wins. And then he shows that the same groups of investment banks and legal firms that serve those banks, basically the one-percenters, contribute heavily to both presidential candidates.
The article is excellent, if depressing. I started to excerpt some key passages but they got so long that it is best if you read the article for yourself. I will restrict myself to just one quote.
The 1% donors are remarkably tolerant. They’ll give to just about anyone who polls well, provided they fall within certain parameters. What they won’t do is give to anyone who is even a remote threat to make significant structural changes, i.e. a Dennis Kucinich, an Elizabeth Warren, or a Ron Paul (hell will freeze over before Wall Street gives heavily to a candidate in favor of abolishing their piggy bank, the Fed). So basically what that means is that voters are free to choose anyone they want, provided it isn’t Dennis Kucinich, or Ron Paul, or some other such unacceptable personage.
If the voters insist on supporting such a person in defiance of these donors – this might even happen tonight, with a Paul win in Iowa – what you inevitably end up seeing is a monstrous amount of money quickly dumped into the cause of derailing that candidate. This takes overt forms, like giving heavily to his primary opponents, and more covert forms, like manufacturing opinions through donor-subsidized think tanks and the heavy use of lapdog media figures to push establishment complaints.
And what ends up happening there is that the candidate with the big stack of donor money always somehow manages to survive the inevitable scandals and tawdry revelations, while the one who’s depending on checks from grandma and $25 internet donations from college students always winds up mysteriously wiped out.
Meanwhile, Glenn Greenwald gives his take on the US elections in the pages of The Guardian, explaining why the Republican race has become so bizarre. Because Barack Obama is governing as a centrist Republican, he has forced the Republican candidates to take extreme right-wing positions, merely to contrast themselves to him.
The Republican presidential primaries – shortly to determine who will be the finalist to face off, and likely lose, against Barack Obama next November – has been a particularly base spectacle. That the contest has devolved into an embarrassing clown show has many causes, beginning with the fact that GOP voters loathe Mitt Romney, their belief-free, anointed-by-Wall-Street frontrunner who clearly has the best chance of defeating the president.
In a desperate attempt to find someone less slithery and soulless (not to mention less Mormon), party members have lurched manically from one ludicrous candidate to the next, only to watch in horror as each wilted the moment they were subjected to scrutiny. Incessant pleas to the party’s ostensibly more respectable conservatives to enter the race have been repeatedly rebuffed. Now, only Romney remains viable. Republican voters are thus slowly resigning themselves to marching behind a vacant, supremely malleable technocrat whom they plainly detest.
In fairness to the much-maligned GOP field, they face a formidable hurdle: how to credibly attack Obama when he has adopted so many of their party’s defining beliefs. Depicting the other party’s president as a radical menace is one of the chief requirements for a candidate seeking to convince his party to crown him as the chosen challenger. Because Obama has governed as a centrist Republican, these GOP candidates are able to attack him as a leftist radical only by moving so far to the right in their rhetoric and policy prescriptions that they fall over the cliff of mainstream acceptability, or even basic sanity.
US elections have two stages. In the first, known as the primaries, any candidate who threatens the status quo of rule by oligarchy is ruthlessly weeded out by a coalition of oligarchy, party leadership, and their allies in the major media. This ensures that some major issues will never be discussed seriously in the second stage of the general election.
But in this second stage, the two pro-oligarchy party candidates will be portrayed as radically different in order to give voters the illusion that we really have a choice and that democracy is thriving. It is not that there is no difference at all between the two candidates but that the differences involve largely social issues that I call GRAGGS issues (god, race, abortion, guns, gays, sex) that the oligarchy does not much care about either way. This is why I think that real challenges to oligarchic control will only come about because of real anger in the streets, similar to that spawned by the Occupy Wall Street movement, at the way that the country is run.
I think that this is why it is important for people to realize that they should never give their total allegiance to candidates. Support them on those issues you agree with but be willing to also harshly criticize them on those that you don’t.