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Friday, 14 September 2012

Really Existing Democracy.


The incumbent President has come out of the Democratic National Convention smiling only to be confronted with upheaval in the Middle East. Yet the approval rating of the candidates, the atmospheric desperation and mediocre speeches of the Conventions are more or less irrelevant. As Mark Hanna would remind us "There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money and I can't remember the second." Follow the money and you'll find the winner. It was Bush who outspent his opponents in 2000 and 2004, he didn't even need to win over enough votes - the cash was enough. When Obama got in there was a gap of over $400 million between his campaign and McCain's. Incidentally the Obama campaign won the award for the best marketing campaign of 2008. What's the situation in 2012? It was predicted that campaign contributions would exceed $1 billion. So far Romney had raised over $193 million whereas Obama had raised almost $350 million.

What does all of this signify? Well it's important to take from this that the United States is not really a democracy in the strict sense. Instead it might be better understood as a polyarchy. Polyarchy can be understood as a system in which a multiplicity of political parties - who represent a coterie of powerful interests - compete with one another to govern the society. The political class faces a dual constituency, in which the needs and wants of the poor come second to the needs and wants of the rich. The convergence of interests plays a huge role in political concessions and development in general. But we can debate the extent to which interests overlap and produce a particular outcome. After all, there is an opposition within capitalist relations between the interests of workers and bosses. The political processes may even be seen as purely managerial in this sense, the working-class has to be managed in such a way as to slot into a mandate.

It seems more or less compatible with Thomas Ferguson's investment theory of politics, where the political parties represent blocs of investors. The standard split in American politics can be drawn between high-tech capital intensive and low-tech labour intensive business, the latter being more nationally oriented than the former. The Republican Party responds to the interests of a specific slice of American capital, which seeks to drive down labour costs through anti-union measures and insulate itself from foreign competition. By contrast the Democratic Party was capable of the New Deal because it represented a portion of capital which could tolerate unionisation that would leave it unscathed. It's worth noting that the major support for Franklin Roosevelt came out of banking and oil. So the New Deal reforms could scathe the interests of industrialists to improve the living standards of workers because it did little to harm the interests of finance and energy.

There are said to be ten lobbyists for every member of Congress looking to shoot down any attempt at significant financial regulation. That's not all. The situation has worsened since then and the Obama campaign accepted over $745 million in 2008 and the campaign team went on to win an award for the best marketing campaign of 2008. Since then the Supreme Court has removed all obstacles to even greater corporate influence on elections and has legalised the unrestricted flow of corporate dough into the campaign war-chests. We shouldn't forget that the Bush administration set a major precedent in US history. Bush did not need to win over the electorate to attain office, the immense support from Big Business was enough and the US Supreme Court made sure the interests of Corporate America were not opposed in the election. At least there may be cause for celebration in the fact that the contributions have not yet reached $1 billion as predicted.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have seen a lot of blogs in blogspot. What purpose do they serve? Is it possible to make money through blogs. If yes how?.

JT White said...

I think it's possible through adverts, though I'm unsure of the specifics as I'm not into this for money. The purpose of the blog can be debated. It could be seen as a free-for-all arrangement where anyone can post their innermost thoughts and feelings on a subject. This blog is particularly focused on questions of the political, philosophical and cultural.