by Michael DeLang
(Swans - December 4, 2006) I'm told that the smart guys on the TV and radio have been busy declaring the results of the recent election to be evidence of the American people's disillusionment with their government's current style of rule and no less than a stated demand for a change in direction for the nation's policies. Oh, really? Four hundred and five of four hundred and thirty-five incumbent US Representatives were returned to their offices. Twenty-seven of thirty-three US Senators up for re-election held their seats. Roughly ninety-six percent of all ballots cast nationwide were once again cast for candidates chosen and placed by the two political parties who, together, share responsibility for the failed policies of American government. While I have no interest in challenging the references to a general disillusionment or in disputing the claims to a desire for a change in direction, I must say that, in my own reading of the election results, the only fact that has been made abundantly clear is that if the American voters do, indeed, desire change, they continue to remain extravagantly clueless as to the means of achieving it. Congress does not, as we are being told, have a new face. It will merely be wearing a fresh mask. I believe this to be true for two reasons. First, money wins elections. And second, ours is a government of checks and balances. Prior to elections, funded interests write checks to underwrite the campaigns of the various candidates. Following the elections, balances are brought forward as the winners repay their obligations to the underwriters of their successful campaigns. Jumping the gun on Swans annual January prediction issue, I'd like to offer a few of my predictions, now, concerning the future legislative endeavors of our "New Congress."
A full American military presence will continue in Iraq throughout and beyond the terms of the newly elected. Why? Because War Profiteers, Inc. (Logistics Division) are prolific pre-election check writers and post-election beneficiaries of congressional largesse. Republican and Democratic lawmakers together acted to fund the construction of permanent military bases in Iraq.
Under the New Congress, a reckless action will be launched by our military forces against the sovereign nation of Iran. It could possibly be another expensive invasion/occupation, but will more likely be on the order of a Shock and Awe style mission, featuring mass civilian murders by way of indiscriminate flyover bombings. The stage has already been set by Republicans and Democratic lawmakers together signing on to the Iran Freedom Support Act. Why? Because War Profiteers, Inc. (Weapons and Armaments Division) are prodigious pre-election check writers and post-election beneficiaries.
The New Congress will continue to fail to address the growing problem of rising health care costs, which has already put basic medical treatment out of the reach of a large portion of our citizens. Why? Because the insurance and pharmaceutical industries write a lot of checks before the election, and will have their due afterwards.
You may hear a more enlightened rhetoric coming from the New Congress on the issues of global warming, renewable energy sources, and responsible environmental stewardship. But look for a stark contradiction to develop between this rhetoric and the action they actually take on the floor. This Congress will not reverse the legislative trend that has so favored the bottom lines of the polluters and exploiters, contributing to an increasing rate of environmental degradation. Why not? The extraction industries (oil, timber, mining, corporate agriculture) are among the most generous of pre-election donors and the most demanding of post-election debt collectors.
Expect your New Congress to sponsor and promote the signing of yet another "free trade" agreement, sending even more jobs to exploitable Third World labor sources, while further eroding the wage base of American workers. Why? I'm running out of fresh ways to phrase it, so I'll just simplify. Corporate checks. Corporate balances.
Campaign reform? If you expect that issue to be embraced by this body of lawmakers and take high priority on their agenda, you've not been paying attention. And what about education? Public schools, in order to maintain their paltry funding, will continue to be forced by federal mandate to comply with the shackling rigors of standardized testing, a tool deliberately designed to promote and enforce standardized thinking. Standardized thinking is the principal ingredient for the production of a pliant citizenry, emerging from the system ready and willing to cast their ballots for one of the two choices towards which they are directed by the smart guys on the TV.
This is your "New Congress." This, allegedly, is your cause for hope. Don't be taken in by the blather of the talking heads who've been trumpeting a tsunami of liberal change washing over the bewildered conservatives in Washington. They're paid to snow you. If change is what you want, you'd better get off your ass and spend the next two years working for it, because it's not going to happen on its own. And it's not going to come from either of the two parties who have made themselves perpetually beholden to their corporate sponsorship.
I say that money wins elections and I believe that to be true. What I do not believe is that is has to be that way. Despite leaving the process vulnerable to abuse and corruption, there is nothing in the constitutional framework governing the electoral process that specifically prescribes or encourages the influence of capital. The fact that capital wields such influence over the results of our elections is strictly a product of the intellectual indolence of the typical voter. Rather than take the time and effort to research the candidates' positions on issues, often more accurately reflected in their voting records than in their rhetoric, and apply a certain degree of critical thinking to the decision, too many voters turn to television ads or newspaper editorials to guide them to a choice. These are the vectors most easily manipulated by the influence of capital. The people who vote this thoughtlessly are not likely to change and it's probably not worthwhile to pursue their attention at this point in time. But there is a substantial group of potential voters who are fed up with the status quo, are angered by the direction the nation has taken, and have lost all confidence in either the Republican or Democratic parties. But because they have also lost confidence in the process, they stay home on Election Day and cast their votes with their silence. I haven't been able to hunt down the figures for this past election, but I believe that non-voters typically comprise about 55 to 60 percent of all registered voters. Granted, a portion of these are less concerned about who will be representing their district in Congress than they are with which American Idol candidate will be moving on to the next level. But a good many stay home because they are disgusted with the system and have come to believe that the systematic corruption of our electoral process has rendered their vote meaningless. These are the voters who, if they could be swayed, could carry a legitimate party of opposition to a position of challenge. The enemy that the Greens, the Peace & Freedom people, or any other authentic opposition organization has to fight is not the Republicrats, but the widely held perception that the existing duopoly is unassailable and that no outside challenge to it can ever be truly viable. A vote against the system is almost universally believed to be a wasted ballot. Even many Green voters perceive their own vote to be only a futile gesture of protest.
It is a false premise. Take the example of my home state, Illinois. In the past election, the Green Party captured 11 percent of the vote, (boosted somewhat by the particularly loathsome character of the two gubernatorial candidates put up by the Republicrats.) Given the typical turnout numbers, that would mean that if even one of three of the voters who stayed home could be convinced that it was worth their trouble to cast a ballot against the system, the Greens could achieve as much as 25 percent of the vote, without taking a single percentage point away from the Democrats! If the duopoly then split the remainder relatively evenly, as they usually do, the gap between the authentic opposition and the "legitimate" parties would be reduced to as little as twelve percent. Small enough to expose the lie of third-party futility and give the opposition enough credibility to begin courting the voters who have previously thrown away their votes on candidates perceived as lesser evils.
If we want change, we can't wait for it. We have to make it. We have the next couple of years to convince ourselves, our friends, our neighbors, anyone who is willing to discuss politics or listen to politics being discussed, that a third-party disruption of the existing state of unbridled corruption is both necessary and possible. The political viability of an authentic opposition organization must be regarded as a cumulative property. It may take several election cycles to get to where we want to go. But along the way, we must remember that the only wasted vote is a vote cast for the status quo. A ballot not cast at all is a vote for the status quo. A vote cast in fear is a slave's vote. We are sorely in need of a slave rebellion made of votes cast in anger and hope. Peace is possible. Universal health care is possible. A sustainable planet is possible. A just and equitable prosperity is possible. Change is possible.
(Granted, this schoolboy gush of enthusiastic idealism neglects to account for the ruthless power of accumulated wealth. It's probably true that if the polls ever indicate that a fed up American electorate is poised to purge themselves of the parasites and take their country back, a national emergency will be invented necessitating the indefinite postponement of elections. Still, I'd rather play out my remaining days fighting to undermine the police state of an overtly fascist oligarchy than to continue to dance any longer with this pathetically absurd mockery of democracy that has plagued our governance for the last sixty years.)
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