The Election Farce

By David Pérez 

11/03/06 "Information Clearing House" -- -- Scene One: a series of heinous crimes are being committed in front of your eyes. You have the power to stop them but you don’t. The crimes result in rape, torture and murder. Still you do nothing. Later you lament how tragic it all was.

Scene Two: years later, you remind people how awful the crimes were, neglecting, of course, to mention your complicity through inaction – and in some instances, how you actually approved the barbarisms. But you’re confident that people will be on your side anyway, enough at least to let you keep your job. And you’re probably right.

 These scenarios are being played out in that insidious farce called the U.S. elections. The witness/accomplice in the crimes is the Democratic Party, specifically the 205 U.S. Representatives, 44 U.S. Senators, and 22 U.S. Governors, who could have stopped the Bush Administration’s barbarous war on Iraq at any time. They could have shut down Congress and State Legislatures, refused to conduct business-as-usual, gone in masse to the battlefields and refused to leave until the bombs stopped, called on the citizenry to take to the street or go on strike, and a host of other actions. Collectively, these Democratic Party officials wield enormous power and influence, with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of resources. Yet they did nothing, except for an occasional feeble protest.

Why do progressive people still vote for a party that can’t even defend them from attack? Not in the mythic future, but right now when it counts? Or yesterday when it counted more?

Make no mistake. The only reason the Democratic Party is against the fiasco in Iraq is because the U.S. is losing the war. It’s all about “bad planning,” or “bad timing,” or whatever. If Bush and Co. had easily subjugated the nation and controlled the oil fields, the entire U.S. ruling class and their paid politicians would be joyous.

And it’s not just the genocidal war against Iraq that the Democratic Party is equally complicit in. They still support the continuing occupation in Afghanistan, and almost unanimously sanctioned Israel’s bombing of Lebanon. They approved and let pass the Patriot Act and the recent Military Commissions Act, which, among other outrages, gives the presidency the power to imprison and torture citizens and non-citizens without charges.

No, the Democratic Party is part of the problem. A vote for them is a vote for imperialist take-over, even if a less maniacal version. As Jeremy Scahill wrote in an excellent article in Common Dreams (11/18/2005), “As disingenuous as the Administrations claims that Iraq had WMDs is the flimsy claim by Democratic lawmakers that they were duped into voting for the war. The fact is that Iraq posed no threat to the United Sates in 2003 any more than it did in 1998 when President Clinton bombed Iraq.” It was the Clinton regime that in 1998 signed the “Iraq Liberation Act,” which codified the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the subsequent invasion. 

I grew up thinking you should vote for the person you want, someone you truly think will make a difference.  How naïve I was. If I choose to vote my conscious, or not vote because I feel the candidates are all bad, then I’m often deemed irresponsible, usually by folks who have the most gripes against the state of U.S. electoral politics. It’s pure hokum this mantra about “we don’t care who you vote for, just vote!” Because especially in a Presidential election year, if you opt to either sit it out or vote for a truly progressive candidate – be it the Greens, Nader or a Socialist – then you’re accused of not merely wasting your vote, but of abetting the enemy.

Such is the dismal state of U.S politics, all in the name of being “practical” and “realistic.”

I never cease to be amazed by how good, otherwise insightful people can’t see their way out of the toxic, undemocratic character of the U.S. election machine. Its influence is deep, more deadly than bullets. There’s the Electoral College, which makes it possible for a President to be elected without winning the popular vote, like in 2000, when Gore received more votes then Bush did. There’s the winner-take-all feature, a high-handed mechanism that can award 100 % of the representation to a 50.1 % majority. Then there’s the role of money. In 2004, the average winning Senator spent $7.2 million on their campaign. The average amount spent by a winning House Representative was $1 million. This does not include the free time these rich cats get on talk shows, newspaper editorials and matching government funds.

Perhaps more to the undemocratic point: who ultimately rules the U.S. anyway? I remember this line in the 1987 Oliver Stone movie, “Wall Street.” The billionaire corporate raider Gordon Gekko (played by Michael Douglas) lectures his young protégé, stockbroker Bud Fox (played by Charlie Sheen) about how 1 percent of the population controls 90 percent of the wealth. With a knowing snicker, he asks Sheen: “You’re not naïve enough to believe we live in a democracy are you?”

Unfortunately, millions of people, most of them good people, still buy the illusion that voting equals democracy, indeed that it is the highest form of democracy. But voting in the U.S. does not give people control over the government or economy. Even if you take raw voting numbers, there has never been a President or member of Congress who’s been elected by a majority of the population. When you take the average 40 percent of the votes garnered by the loser and then add the eligible voters who didn’t vote (always at least 50 percent), you come out with a winner with only a small percentage of support.

Elections may work somewhat in local elections where the cesspool of corporate influence is less prevalent, or in places where a crucial proposition is on the ballot. And in some instances, there’s an actual progressive candidate who’s member of the Democratic Party, such as Cynthia McKinley or the late Sen. Paul Wellstone.

Nonetheless, everyone can tell you: you need money to run in an election, usually a lot of it.

 We are continually force-fed a staged melodrama that muddles our brains, wastes our time and money, and saps our spirit. It’s the ruling elite’s game, they’re the house. Sure we get small victories here and there and someone hits a jackpot, one out of millions. So we stay in the game, clinging to the hope that we always have a chance. Worse, we support a candidate only because he or she is not as bad as someone else. But for crying out loud, there’s always someone better than someone else, or more accurately someone less evil. Not only is this a terrible misuse of energy, it is perilous. Who is more dangerous, the wolf or the wolf in sheep’s clothing? Yes, the Bushites are especially demented, a special breed of neo-fascists. But the liberals don’t fight them. They capitulate to them. With all the indications that the 2004 election was stolen (a more elaborate con than in 2000), there was no mass campaign to undo the results. This “wait until the Democrats control Congress again” is, frankly, bullshit. They can’t fight against the theft of their own election! No impeachment against a criminal President, no significant fight of any kind. Then they treat us like chumps. Ha, ha you’ll vote for me anyway, they say. And they’re right.

We are a population with an inferiority complex. We’re ruled by fear, defending the corrupt electoral process with the same freaking argument every year. We literally cannot see our way out of it, and feel that if we abandon the electoral machine, we’ll lose a precious lifeline, our principal source of  “civic duty.” In many ways, it’s the same type of struggle we wage to rid our bodies of poisonous fast food, or to abandon our fun but wasteful energy habits.

Cleansing ourselves is enormously challenging to be sure, but necessary for our personal and collective health. So it was this corporate-driven electoral process. Don’t buy it.

David Pérez is a writer, editor, actor and activist who grew up in the South Bronx, New York City and currently resides in Taos, New Mexico. He has written extensively on political and economic issues, including two chapbooks: “The Destruction of the Environment: Racism and the Profit System,” and “Genetics, Capitalism and the Natural Order.”

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