Sunday, July 29, 2007

Election Distraction

I haven’t watched any of the presidential debates. I do follow what the media has been saying about the races, but the truth is, I don’t really care very much. It’s not that I think all the candidates are the same. At this point, any Democrat running looks better than what we’ve got—although it’s not very hard to look good compared to a criminal. I had an intense dislike for Bill Clinton (still do) but the last six plus years of Preznut AWOL make the Clinton years look like the golden age.

No, my problem with the presidential campaign is that it’s a dangerous distraction. To state the obvious first, the domination of our body politic by the rich has now resulted in the idiocy of a Presidential campaign running close to full tilt over a year before the election. We, the jaded electorate, are expected to pay attention to slickly packaged political rhetoric for two whole years of a campaign? It almost seems designed to increase voter apathy.

More importantly, however, the media’s focus on a Presidential campaign drains attention away from the misdeeds of the current White House occupants. The TV bobbleheads can now drone on about who’s ahead and what strategy so-and-so needs to take in order to gain advantage over so-and-so—the whole politics as horse race nonsense has already taken up a lot of center stage in the official spectacle of current American politics. It’s the perfect non-issue. Let me make this clear: I don’t give a damn who’s ahead and who’s behind. I care about now, not next November, or January ’09. Caring about the race is part of the “business as usual” paradigm that keeps us asleep. The TV “news” is invested in the belief that everything is humming along normally. There’s no crisis. Just consume products, watch the spectacle, and listen to the pundits.

It’s not only that the media tries to distract us with this rubbish. That’s bad, but not as systemically bad as what’s really ailing us. No, what’s dangerous is that the presidential race becomes an excuse for politicians not to do their jobs. The other day on Amy Goodman’s show Democracy Now!, I heard Dan Gerstein, a Democrat who used to work for Joe Lieberman, arguing that impeachment is a bad idea because it might hurt the party’s chances for retaking the White House in ’08. He’s not alone by any means—this is a fairly standard view among the Democrats in the House and Senate. On the surface the argument has a certain logic, but only if you accept the premise that our current situation, although bad, is somehow an ordinary political situation that can be solved best through the process of electoral politics.

Well-meaning strategists like Gerstein fail to note how extraordinary the crisis is. To those in the political class, the undermining of the Constitution in order to establish what are basically dictatorial powers does not set off any alarm bells. The breathtaking contempt shown to the Congress by Bush, Cheney, Rove, Gonzales, and the rest of them—which has reached the point where they defy subpoenas and the threat of contempt citations without blinking an eye—doesn’t seem like a crisis to the politicos. Even the Democratic response to the war in Iraq is crafted with electoral politics in mind. This is the basic mistake that may doom the Democratic Party to failure. Instead of seeing their opponents as a threat to our very liberty as a people—a threat that has proven its nature time and again for the last six plus years—they focus only on beating them at the polls. Not fighting them tooth and nail in the corridors of power, but looking over their shoulders at poll numbers. What we need is to stand up to this nascent fascist movement, confronting it at every level, without letting calculations of possible effects on the ’08 election inhibit us.

The old approach has failed. The victories of ’06 are naught unless you exploit that victory with courage. If a Democrat takes office in ’09, the right-wing machine will still exploit their media power to attack and weaken the new President, just like they did Clinton. They don’t give up. Why should we? There will always be another election looming, either a midterm or Presidential contest. We’re paralyzed by this focus on elections, when fear of electoral consequences prevent politicians from doing the hard work they need to do.

Finally, the election is a distraction because we don’t know how much more damage Cheney/Bush can do in another seventeen months of power. Good god, in seventeen months these people can destroy us. Blithely swimming along as if Bush poses no threat is insanity. His group obviously doesn’t care how low they are in the polls. They don’t believe themselves beholden to public opinion or the will of the people. They believe that they are the law, and they’ve consistently exploited terrorism and war in order to place themselves above all accountability, beyond any standards of human conduct or decency. They have to be confronted now, because the situation will just continue to deteriorate at an exponential rate. War with Iran? Declaring martial law after a terrorist attack? Hey, at this point, you can’t put anything past them, because they’re not just politicians. This is not business as usual. These are criminals, and dealing with criminals means trying to put them away, regardless of whether you might lose some votes in the next election.

As far as I’m concerned, if you’re campaigning for President right now, instead of campaigning for impeachment, you’re part of the problem. Bush must go--now.


Imigrante said...

Rock 'n' roll will never die!

fiddler said...

One part of the problem is IMO the insanity of having national elections every other year (Presidential and midterm), which means in the current political "culture" at least half of the Rep's terms are wasted campaigning.
Another point is the plurality voting system that has set the two-party-system in stone. Did I say "two-party"? From the outside at least it seems as though the fight, fierce as it may be, is hardly anymore about different politics but merely about which clan rules the city. A European spectator sure can be forgiven thinking there is just one right-wing party with a Democratic and a Republican wing, and that the fact the current criminal belongs to the latter is of little consequence.

Chris Dashiell said...

Well yes, as Gore Vidal has said, there's one party and it's the property party.
I do think, however, that our present situation is extraordinary in that the Yankee establishment wing is being challenged by what I consider a neo-fascist movement. This movement is much more dangerous than the mainstream imperialist group, but I agree with you that real change will need to come from outside the corporate elites.