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Question Everything!

A one party political system

By Cristobal Fales

October 07, 2020 "Information Clearing House" - Not living in the United States provides a person with a certain detachment from the current state of US politics, and in particular, the presidential race. Though removed from the constant clamor, I am profoundly saddened by what is happening, and has happened, in the country in which I lived for most of my life. As the late great Molly Ivans once said: If God had wanted us to vote, he would have given us candidates.¨ Unfortunately, the problem is much bigger than just a lack of candidates. Still, many people will feel obliged to choose between the two come election day.

Probably never have so many millions of dollars been spent to say so little. Both camps have dedicated themselves to name calling and personal attacks. The candidate are called mental incompetents, communists, radical leftists, anarchists, or fascists (as if people know what those terms mean), usually without any justification for such a label. In some cases, the shoe fits. The campaign staffs dig out and promote slanders (real or imagined) and personal attacks (again, verifiable or false) as if the race were a popularity contest. Both candidates accuse each other of being un-American, dupes of foreign powers (shades of Joseph McCarthy and the cold war Red scares). The Republican party has officially dispensed with the quaint idea of a political platform. The Democratic party does have an official platform of sorts, but basically it consists of: ¨We´re not Trump¨, or ¨Back to the good old days of Obama¨.

From here, it looks as if neither party is making an effort to address in a serious way the very real problems the country faces – a pending environmental collapse, a non-existent health system, the dysfunctional educational system, the bloated military engaged in endless wars, crumbling infrastructure, a tax structure that favors a growing economic inequality, a casino financial system one panic away from collapse, pervasive racial injustice, and an astounding level of corruption, both public and private. These are not new problems, but they have been ignored for years. The United States is a relatively young country, but has one of the world´s oldest governments, and it is coming apart at the seams. The campaign staffs of both parties and the media pay scant attention to these issues and, as they have for years, distract the public with issues of lesser importance. They have turned the campaign into a personality contest. They have placed Mr. Donald J (for Genius) Trump in the center of the campaign. It´s all about him, love him or hate him.

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Ignore him. Ignore the mud-slinging and carnival barking long enough to reflect on the actual issues that matter to you. Has the current administration improved them, done nothing, or made them worse? What are the prospects of the challenger? Look beyond the slogans and personalities and try to focus on policies. In my opinion neither candidate inspires much confidence. It may be true that the US has effectively evolved into a one party political system and there is little difference between the parties. But there is a difference between the candidates. It’s a hell of a choice.

Voters can take consolation in the fact that no matter who wins the election, things won´t change much. In spite of the coming spectacle of thousands of outraged lawyers hurtling injunctions at one another and the courts, frantic judges torturing the legal system trying to appease those who appointed them, hysterically bloviating pundits, and almost surely including some level of street violence, whichever side comes out the winner won´t make things any better. The fact is that the two principal political parties in the United States are in almost total agreement on the major issues. It is a one party political system. After the electoral process has drawn to its inevitable close, life will go on. The Republicans and the Democrats will continue their electioneering, scrapping over what they conjure up as the life and death issue de jour, but their agreement on the basic issues of money, taxes, corruption, race, war, health care, ¨law and order¨, and the environment will continue uuninterupted. Serious political discourse between the two political parties in the United States is on its deathbed, if not already dead.

What might it be like living in a country in which serious political discourse has ended? Since I left the United States I have lived in a country that not that long ago (1939-1975) was ruled by the fascist dictatorship of Francisco Franco. Political parties were outlawed, dissent was not tolerated. The regime was ultra-catholic, rabidly anti-communist, anti-intellectual, and oligarchic. Hundreds of thousands of suspected dissidents were thrown into concentration camps, put up against a wall and shot, or simply assassinated and thrown into a ditch. In spite of all that, life went on for the majority of the people. If you kept your mouth shut, went to mass regularly, cultivated the right sort of friends, and had no family members or close friends who could be accused of leftist sympathies, you could live a normal life. It is worthwhile to watch old Spanish movies from the 1950s and 1960s. To an American, the daily life depicted appears Normal with a capital N. Charming even. Whether the film depicts the gilded social whirl of the privileged classes, or the struggle of a virtuous but poor flower girl or orphan, the characters are content with their role. A kindly cleric is nearly always on hand to reinforce the message that this is the way it is supposed to be (as in the Spanish expression, Como Dios manda). Only in the last years of the dictatorship do we find some films that pose questions as to the social order. Argentina and Chile are also sources of good films showing how life went on under their own oppressive regimes. Since their leaders did not have the close personal ties to Hitler and Mussolini as did Franco, they are not usually described as Fascist (their ties were rather to Kissinger and the CIA). Watching these films we can see just how normal life could be under real Fascism, as long as we behave. You can get used to it.

Cristobal lives in Spain, he has a degree in history and a Masters in urban planning.

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