Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Thought Food for an American democrat.

You might say that the democratic process in the United States is deeply flawed, but I would go further to say that the American political system might be best described as a polyarchy. There are only two choices in a business-run system whereby the candidate who spends the most on advertising, and by extension receives the most funding from corporations, is the most likely to win the election. We saw this in 2008 when Barack Obama beat John McCain in the race to succeed George Bush. Obama had received over $745 million in campaign contributions, predominantly from the same corporations which backed Bush, whilst McCain received just $368 million. Similarly George Bush received nearly $40 million more than John Kerry in 2004 and about $70 million more than Al Gore in 2000. It is worth noting that Bush did not even need to win over the voters in 2000 to win, Corporate America backed him and that was good enough for him to take office.

It has been said that the United States is fundamentally a "conservative country" and furthermore that it is only the bi-coastal elites who are liberals. Similarly there is the notion of the liberal media and the contention that the Left is an elite operation reviled on Main Street America. The Republican Party has repeatedly reinvigorated itself by engineering populist rebellions of the white working-class against liberals in government and in the media. It is true that the most prominent leftists are intellectuals, but that is not necessarily a sign of the dissonance of radical ideas and the American working-class. On social issues the white working-class, who vote, tend to lean right-wards opposing same-sex marriage, gun control, abortion, immigration, secularism, political correctness and multiculturalism. It is typically the wealthy who vote according to the economic policy of the candidates. Though a crude version of economics is often presented to the working-classes in order to swing votes.

The assassination attempt and shooting spree in Tucson came just days after the GOP gained control of Congress from the Democrats on a torrent of right-wing populism against the state. The new speaker John Boehner made a point of reading the Constitution out loud to Congress. The fundamentalist and fetishistic reading of the Constitution is a way for Republicans to shoot down legislation which is "unconstitutional", e.g. health-care reform. Of course, subsidies to corporations and bailouts for banks are perfectly constitutional - that goes without saying. The Democrats pose a luke-warm opposition, at best, to the blatantly pro-business agenda of the GOP. But the Democrats have also been subject to a tremendous amount of lobbying from the health insurance industry, which might explain why "Obama-care" obligates Americans to buy health insurance and are fined if they don't do so. As a consequence the health-care reforms championed by Democrats are easily lampooned by Republicans and the populace is easily disillusioned by such mediocrity.

As the public is disillusioned by the meaningless and hopeless state of the union, the GOP has been able to mobilise a conservative base on family values and gun rights. A combination of low voting turn-out and the convergence of capital has led to a lurch away from the New Deal. 75% of the American population made up 37% of the vote at the mid-term elections in 2010, these are the Americans who earn less than $50,000 a year and lean to the Democratic Party. Compare this with the 26% of the vote consisting of the 10% of Americans who earn over 100,000 a year and typically vote Republican. The class dynamic of American elections is constantly ignored and the media resort to the view that the US is simply a conservative country. Although it is true that a strong Democratic tendency does not necessarily mean that the US is a liberal or left-wing country, because the Democrats have a strong conservative wing whilst liberals like Dennis Kucinich are left marginalised.

As the American people will once again be called to do their civic duty in 2012 it's worth noting that the Supreme Court squashed hopes of campaign finance reform and now it looks like campaign funding might rise to over $1 billion next year. Democracy as a concept has been corrupted to the point that Hugo Chavez could be considered a despot and George Bush a democratically elected leader. In the former usage democracy in a developing country is characterised by obedience to the interests of the US. In the latter usage the way people come out to vote for a leader, one of only two meaningless choices which has effectively been determined by a business-run system. Democracy has been lost as an ideal of mass-participation and self-rule. Everywhere we see signs that the American people are thoroughly enraged and for good reasons. The task at hand is how to articulate those concerns and act on them. To put it bluntly America is well overdue for a rebellion, which Thomas Jefferson thought the country should not go without for even 20 years.

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