Sunday, January 6, 2008

A Comment on the Elections

Imagine that you and a police officer have both just seen a cold-blooded murderer and sadist torturing and then killing people in plain daylight. The cop turns to you - instead of going after the murderer - and says: "If you vote for me to become the police chief I will stop this murderer from doing what he is doing."

He promises you change and the end to murderous rampages.

You scream at him, "Why aren't you doing something RIGHT NOW about that murderer?!"

He says: "What that guy is doing isn't serious enough to warrant immediate action. We must wait for over a year before I can do anything because as police chief I'll have more power and REALLY be in charge. THEN I can really do something to stop these things from happening."

Meanwhile the murderer is still murdering people and torturing them. But the cop promises you that he will change things if you elect him police chief.

What would you think of such a cop?

* * *

In the wake of Obama's (and Huckabee's) win in the Iowa caucuses, all of the candidates, including even at least some of the Republicans, are now repeating ad nauseum the "C" word: Change. It's enough to make one ill.

Elections reveal some things and they conceal some things. They reveal something about voters' mood. On the one hand, Obama's win over former front-runner Clinton, and the surge of first-time caucusers who stepped forward to support him against the more openly establishment candidates, shows the electorate's strong desire for something other than what we've been treated to in the last seven years. This is forcing the other candidates to sing the tune of change. It tells us something about the public's sentiments that in spite of her much greater name recognition, in spite of her being the first female to have a legitimate shot at becoming president, and in spite of the institutional backing for her, Clinton got beat in Iowa by a very junior, highly inexperienced (he's only in his first term as a Senator) candidate of color in an overwhelmingly white state.

On the other hand, elections also show voters' vulnerability, in this instance as well as in so many others through history, to the empty promises of the candidates. Obama - and the rest of them - are all about presentation.

Fact: The Democratic majority in Congress last year decided that they were not going to do anything until at least 2010 about the easily hacked electronic machines that make up over 85% of the voting devices we now use in the country.

Fact: Rigging the vote is easy enough for a single high school student with access to a modem and therefore access to the central tabulating station for a state's votes.

Fact: Bush and Cheney lost the elections of 2000 and 2004 and still took office! See, for example, my book Impeach the President (Chapter 2), my essay "No Paper Trail Left Behind: the Theft of the 2004 Presidential Election, Mark Crispin Miller's book, Fooled Again, Steven Freeman and Joel Bleifus' book, Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen? , Greg Palast's book Armed Madhouse and Robert F. Kennedy's article in Rolling Stone, "Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen?"

Fact: Public policy isn't decided by elections. Campaign rhetoric is meaningless and usually, in fact, the opposite of what the office holder actually ends up doing. See, for example, Lyndon Johnson's platform as the "peace" candidate in 1964. See Bush's campaign rhetoric about being against "nation building" and as the "compassionate conservative." See Obama's heart tugging claims that he will bring us together and that he is against the war and yet he's declared that a military attack on Iran may be necessary: in 2004 he declared that "surgical strikes on Iran may become necessary. Launching some missile strikes into Iran is not the optimal position for us to be in, given the ongoing war in Iraq," Obama told the Chicago Tribune. "On the other hand, having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse." The Tribune said that "Obama went on to argue that military strikes on Pakistan should also not be ruled out if violent Islamic extremists were to take over."

Obama has also said that impeaching Bush and Cheney is unwarranted because their actions haven't risen to the level of the impeachable (??!). Do you wonder about the judgment of someone who wants to be the Chief Executive if he can't identify - or more to the point, won't call out - war crimes, crimes against humanity and tyranny?

This election season swung into gear this time on an unprecedentedly accelerated time frame. Why? The powers that be want to take our collective minds off of the fact that the president and vice-president are committing war crimes and crimes against humanity every single day and to try to get us to think a year ahead of time that we can change this - without addressing the fact that these crimes are occurring now and that unless they're held accountable for them, not only are people being tortured every day but the precedents being set by this administration will be the new normal. Torture and rendition, signing statements that negate Congressional intent, spying on each and every one of us by our government, invading other countries that do not threaten us and have not attacked us (the highest war crime of all) will be the new normal.

Fact: What does make a difference is the degree to which the people are politically mobilized as an independent political force in the society. See Howard Zinn's works. See the labor movement of the 1930s. See the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. See the anti-war and women's movements of the 1960s. If the people are so mobilized, who is occupying the White House, what their political party and ideology and programme are, doesn't matter. Nixon, after all, pulled us out of Vietnam, against his will. If the people are not politically mobilized, then it doesn't matter how good the person in the White House is, it could even be a communist or socialist, and he or she would be powerless to do anything but the bidding of the elites.

No comments: