Election Day 2008 is coming. Perhaps you lean right and have a case of Baracknophobia, or you lean left and think McCain is insane-in-the-brain. There are indeed some differences in how the two candidates present their platforms, but underneath all the talk and sniping, whichever of these two candidates gets elected will largely continue Business As Usual in the US, merely taking slightly different paths to the same end—the further entrenchment of corporate power and further support for the rigged system by which the rich get richer during good times and let the poor pay for the elites' mistakes when their leveraged investments go south.
During the primaries, the few Democratic and Republican candidates who talked about real issues honestly—Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, and John Edwards—were all run out of the race by their corporate-dominated parties. Ralph Nader, who ran as a third-party candidate or independent in 2000 and 2004 and is now running again in 2008, has been even more forthright about the country's most important problems, most notably the issue of corporate dominance of the federal government and corporate hegemony in American life. But Nader is beyond even being considered a long-shot for victory in November, and writing-in a candidate like Kucinich or Paul or Edwards seems like a no-impact approach. So, one really has to pick between Obama and McCain, or it's just wasting your vote, right?
Hmm. Let's imagine for a moment...
Let's say we're going to vote in a galactic political contest—the 2008 Election for Supreme Ruler of the Universe. The Republican candidate is the crusty, creepy Emperor from Star Wars. The Democratic candidate is a convincing upstart named Darth Vader. In this scenario, though, the public is convinced that the Emperor and Vader are on different sides of the issues. In reality, of course, they work towards the same purpose but with different techniques. Your only other voting choice is a third-party candidate named Luke Skywalker.
EMPEROR (R) DARTH VADER (D) LUKE SKYWALKER (I)
The media pundits pronounce that Skywalker has no chance of winning. This strongly implies that to avoid "wasting your vote" you must vote for the Emperor or Darth Vader, right? But would it not also be a waste of your vote to give it to either of the candidates that are hell-bent on totalitarian domination of the universe? At least voting for Skywalker makes a statement of protest, a small finger-poke in the chest of The Powers That Be to say "I don't like your corrupt system and I'm not gonna vote for either of your henchmen."
The Star Wars election metaphor maps rather easily to the actual 2008 election: McCain/Emperor, Obama/Vader, Nader/Skywalker. The specifics are different, of course, but the overarching themes align quite well: There are two establishment candidates (McCain and Obama) and one anti-establishment candidate (Nader). The differences between the two establishment candidates are minimal compared to the stark contrast between either of them and Nader, who asserts correctly that "the establishment" the other two men yearn to preside over is a cesspool of corruption. Without a plan for radical change—sweeping reform of campaign contributions, elimination of corporate lobbying, and a breakup of corporate media—the establishment candidates' promises of change are empty, and the differences between their platforms are minor.
Those who favor McCain will surely protest that he is a great hero, a patriot who only has this country's best interests at heart. His actions and recent rhetoric tell us that whatever patriotic feelings he has in his gut, his brain has been co-opted by the same dark forces that have steered things in such a calamitously wrong direction over the last eight years (and, to some extent, the eight years before that too, when Clinton championed disastrous policies like NAFTA, media consolidation, and repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which laid the foundation for the current financial crisis).
Those who favor Obama will insist that here, finally, is a candidate for real change. But Obama does not oppose corporate power, and his solutions to our energy crisis include more nuclear power plants and support for the mythological "clean coal." He should be supporting massive investment in and conversion to truly sustainable energy technologies. He should tell us the truth about our energy future—that reductions in total energy use will be required (i.e. we will have to undertake "lifestyle changes," a verboten topic in politics). But Obama is not really about true change; the best one might say is that he's merely "less bad" than McCain on some issues and will go about destroying the planet more slowly.
We assert that the Democrats and Republicans are both serving interests other than the public good. Still not sure you agree with that? Let's talk about the banking mess.
Though there was some haggling along the way, in the end, both parties got onboard for passage of the huge banking bailout in October 2008, and both mainstream candidates supported it. The bill provided massive amounts of taxpayer cash for bank bailouts and sweeping new powers for the Treasury Secretary—a man who was until recently CEO of Goldman Sachs, one on the big investment firms responsible for creating this mess.
There was no substantive talk of mass roundups and jail time for the crooks and charlatans whose criminal and unethical behavior caused the problem. There was barely even agreement on inclusion of a loophole-ridden limitation on future compensation for Wall Street and banking execs, let alone any proposal that these wealthy elites give back the hundreds of billions in personal wealth they extracted from their scheme before it collapsed. No, folks, it was much easier to make a few specious statements about "protecting the taxpayer" and then stick us and our children with the current and future costs of the bailout. It's worth remembering that our leaders passed this bailout legislation in spite of overwhelming public opposition—93% of the public was against it, according to one poll.
The really sad thing is that their fix won't even work in the long run. There will be more huge financial problems to come, with more injection of your tax dollars into the Black Hole of Good Money After Bad. Instead of insisting that those who benefited during the good times pay the price of the bad times, our leaders have let the partiers slip out the back and left us holding the brooms, the wash buckets, and the bill.
We've been screwed. Both parties did it, and both deserve the heave-ho. Voting for third-party and independent candidates tells the Republi-crats how mad we are. Who knows—if enough of us do this, we might even end up electing a government that will serve our interests for a change.
Whether it's fixing the money system, reigning in corporatism, or reversing the slide in US jobs, if you want true change, you need someone who is willing to put his ass on the line by saying things that raise the hackles of the elite powerbrokers; that is, talking about things like...
- disestablishing the Federal Reserve and returning management of the US money supply to the US government (says Ron Paul);
- reining in the United States' imperial tendencies by withdrawing the US from NAFTA and the World Trade Organization and by rejecting war as an instrument of US foreign policy (says Dennis Kucinich);
- cutting off corporate lobbyists at the knees and returning to a federal government that is of, for, and by the people—not of, for, and by the corporations (says Ralph Nader).
It's also worth noting what candidates are not saying—that is, what topics are they avoiding or giving meaningless party-line answers on? Candidates rarely talk about the topics below, at least not as they are framed here:
- peak oil, the US war for oil, and the screaming need for a truly viable US energy strategy;
- eroding civil rights and free-speech rights (for instance, the unconstitutional but widely employed "free speech zones" contained by fences, located a mile or more away from the conference center that is the object of the protest);
- "economic growth" vs. a "sustainable economy," where infinite economic growth is properly recognized as a pyramid scheme that will necessarily fail at some point (maybe soon!).
No, the mainstream candidates do not talk much about these things, and the mainstream media help them get away with it by presenting an endless parade of non-news and election-year distractions—affiliations with bigoted preachers; knocked-up teenaged daughters; you know they stuff I mean. This is really astonishing, given the precarious state of things.
Perhaps most people who read this article won't change their minds about whom to vote for, but it's my hope that some will at least refocus their lenses, stop letting media spin and nonsense obscure important policy questions, begin using a stronger BS filter when listening to the candidates, and start to evaluate the truth of political speech by starting from the usually-correct premise of "they're not telling me the truth."
If we keep playing the game according to the current rules, we will never get true change. In almost every race this election, you have a choice of whether to waste your vote on a truth-speaking candidate who has no chance of winning or to waste your vote on one of the two candidates from the Republi-crat Party, one of whom will win but neither of whom will really change anything important once elected.
We must start looking at the world of mainstream politics through new eyes. The game is rigged, and we're all losing. Perhaps by the time 2012 rolls around, we will have all joined in some of the emerging efforts to throw off plutocratic rule and reestablish the democratic republic envisioned by the Founding Fathers and the US constitution.
"IT'S JUST SAD, LARRY"
In 1992, Ross Perot ran as a truth-telling independent presidential candidate, warning us of the dangers inherent in the runaway national debt, the loss of jobs that NAFTA would bring, and other threats to US democracy. He lost, but he got an impressive 19% of the vote. Many other people also wanted Perot as president but did not vote for him because the two mainstream candidates and the media told them they would be "wasting their vote." The astonishing truth is that if those people had voted for Perot, he would have won.
Some places to start:
2008 Independent Candidates' News Conference
I Watch (Center for Public Integrity)
Project Vote Smart
PR-Watch.org (Center for Media and Democracy)
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