I’m in a particularly foul mood this evening, so I thought I’d share. And I’ll get right to the point:
America, you’re screwed.
With growing frequency, I’ve heard or read conversations between people of opposite political philosophies that go something like this:
Sap #1: X is bad and ruining the country.
Sap #2: Yeah, well both political parties are equally responsible.
[Some amount of discussion about which party is more responsible, ending with agreement that corporate power and its influence on government are at the heart of the problem.]
Sap #1: Yeah, that’s why I’m voting for [Jill Stein, Gary Johnson or other 3rd-party wastes of time] for President.
Sap #2: Yeah.
To me, this is equivalent to determining that your roof leaks and that a storm is on the way. And then deciding the best course of action is to draw a nice bath.
If I were an oligarch and read that silliness on the Facebook, I’d clip the end off a Cuban and light it with a one hundred dollar bill.
“Nothing to worry about here.”
The Ugly Analysis
What’s most depressing about this line of reasoning is that it gets so perilously close to actual sanity before plunging itself into madness. Let’s take it bit by bit to see why.
“X is bad and its ruining the country.”
“X” here could be pretty much anything, and I won’t argue about whether or not X is ruining the country. The US electorate seems hell-bent on ruining the country, so it’s a virtually endless list of items we could drop in here. If you think it’s ruining the country, I’m inclined to agree.
“Yeah, well both political parties are equally responsible.”
Here, we could quibble around the edges about which political party is more responsible for what, but in the aggregate, both political parties are equally culpable for the grand cluster-up that is USA 2012. From the police state at home to the military actions abroad both overt and covert, from elementary schools built on toxic waste dumps to the outrageous national debt and ALWAYS AND ESPECIALLY the ever-present, unimpeachable, saint-like presence of “The Market” as the ultimate arbiter of both value and values, the situation this nation faces would not have been possible but for the cooperation of both major political parties. Controversy here = 0.
[Discussion ending with awareness that corporate power and its influence on government are really and truly the problem.]
Wait, really? I should look into this concept. /sarcasm
Intermission Report: The Analysis Thus Far
There is no doubt that whatever is ruining this country stems from the fact that corporations are people with the same rights as you and me, but none of the responsibilities. Their money is speech, so they can “speak” in the political realm as much as they please. In fact, they can speak so much and so loudly that they can effectively write the laws that govern us all. Only they make sure the laws are such that if they get in trouble, instead of going to jail they get a giant check from The Taxpayers. Taxpayers are just like Corporate People, only we have to pay taxes.
Thus our hypothetical conversation has arrived at a potentially revolutionary moment. Both participants have realized that they are humans getting screwed by a governmental structure designed to support non-humans (corporations).
And then, it all goes so horribly wrong…
Why You’re Screwed, America
“That’s why I’m voting for a third-party/independent party candidate for President.”
Whoever says something along these lines needs to take a moment and reflect on whether or not they really ought to vote. I mean, if you’re foolish enough to do something like this with your vote for President, who know what kind of jackassery will influence your vote for an office that could actually DO SOMETHING about the situation.
To be sure, the idea of a third party is a fine one. This nation should have third, fourth and fifth parties. Hell, we’re big enough to have dozens of parties that win offices of various sorts. The third party portion is not what’s at issue here.
It’s the foolish, corporately-supported, bipartisan charade that the president can actually do something. In these pages, I’ve called the Presidency a McGuffin. It’s the Lady Gaga of politics. (And, per the late Gore Vidal, politics is the entertainment division of the military/industrial complex!) Nothing could be more meaningless to real change.
Yet you believe the President to be THE MOST important elected position, America. And that is why you’re screwed.
Hell, the third parties themselves are so brainwashed that they run a Jill Stein or a Gary Johnson for President, and do so with a straight face. I sometime wonder if the Koch Bros aren’t funding these effort surreptitiously. Gary Johnson makes Don Quixote look like Harry Truman!
And Now, For Something Completely Different
Those who know me know I’m loathe but morally required to say that if any political force in the US were serious about changing the dialog in this nation, they would study relentlessly and without judgement the efforts of the Republican Party of Texas from roughly 1985 to the present. These TX GOPers are an exercise in democratic revolution. They have (mostly) legally changed the conversation in hundreds of horrible ways. But they have changed the conversation.
And they didn’t do it by electing a President. In fact, that George W. Bush – an aligned, conservative Texan – was elected President was at best a side benefit. In all likelihood it was just happenstance.
These hardcore religious fanatics did it the old fashioned way: they ran for office. Any office. Every office. Zoning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, School Committee, Dog Catcher. Not just any, but ALL of the local and state offices. And they won.
In so doing, they built a base through which they affected change such as they wanted to the point that national textbook publishers must now consider their wishes when creating schoolbooks. Look deeply into the abyss, Lefty, and behold your desires!
So successful were these grassroots GOPers that they recently got their just desserts at the 2012 Republican National Convention: party bosses (read, wealthy donors) changed the rules to severely limit their ability to influence their party. And Ron Paul and the force that he legitimately mustered…well, any fair-minded person recognizes a straight-up freeze-out when he or she sees it.
Little Rhody, the Progressive Example?
It’s entirely possible the we here in Rhode Island could be the example for left-leaning efforts across the country. We’re not big enough to influence textbook publishers the way Texas (or California) can. But we can set out a template that others can look to build from. In 2012, it seems that we have an unprecedented number of first-time, left-leaning people-of-the-people running for state and local office.
Just off the top of my head we have Libby Kimzey, Abel Collins and Mark Binder running for state and federal offices. Two first-time women are running in the Democratic primary to replace retiring state senator Rhoda Perry. I know there are many, many more independents and/or first-timers that I can’t call to mind. But we got ’em.
This is how you build a base – from the bottom up.
If only a portion of these new-to-politics candidates win, it means that more will follow based on their success as they were emboldened by the success of the Teresa Tanzi’s and Sabina Matos’s of our local scene.
America, you’re screwed if you focus on the President as the elected office in which you place your revolutionary aims. But, Little Rhody, you just keep electing these outsiders, and who knows? You just might push this country in a positive direction.
Wait, what happened? Wasn’t I in a foul mood?