November 5, 2008

Call It A Competitive Democracy

I write with a heavy heart tonight; as I type these words America is taking part in what has been pounded into our collective consciousness as the most important election of our time. Thousands, maybe millions of young Americans are taking part in the political dance that passes for Democracy in these Untied States, thinking that they are acting for change. Filled with a desperate sense of hope, they are voting for Barak Obama thinking that he will usher in a new America.

I have written before how much I want to be one of these people. I feel like an anti-social pariah, as I sit alone and brood over the charade that has been so carefully scripted by the Democratic Party and their corporate backers. I feel like the crazy person screaming fire as people stroll aimlessly about drunk on the idea of change without substance.

I can’t get passed the fact that the same corporate media that most left leaning progressive Americans have been criticizing for giving the Bush administration a free ride, has the American left drugged and subdued into believing that they are partaking in an historic event. Bludgeoned by the words hope and change, so often most people forget that the same “bad” guys we have been fighting for the last eight years have sponsored the Obama campaign.

Ralph Nader, in his open letter to Obama says it best,

In your nearly two-year presidential campaign, the words "hope and change," "change and hope" have been your trademark declarations. Yet there is an asymmetry between those objectives and your political character that succumbs to contrary centers of power that want not "hope and change" but the continuation of the power-entrenched status quo.

Far more than Senator McCain, you have received enormous, unprecedented contributions from corporate interests, Wall Street interests and, most interestingly, big corporate law firm attorneys. Never before has a Democratic nominee for President achieved this supremacy over his Republican counterpart. Why, apart from your unconditional vote for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, are these large corporate interests investing so much in Senator Obama? Could it be that in your state Senate record, your U.S. Senate record and your presidential campaign record (favoring nuclear power, coal plants, offshore oil drilling, corporate subsidies including the 1872 Mining Act and avoiding any comprehensive program to crack down on the corporate crime wave and the bloated, wasteful military budget, for example) you have shown that you are their man?

To advance change and hope, the presidential persona requires character, courage, integrity-- not expediency, accommodation and short-range opportunism.

I suggest you read the letter in its entirety. Contrary to the clown the media makes Nader out to be, he is at his best when he cuts to the heart of the matter in indictments like this:

Should you be elected President, it must be more than an unprecedented upward career move following a brilliantly unprincipled campaign that spoke "change" yet demonstrated actual obeisance to the concentration power of the "corporate supremacists." It must be about shifting the power from the few to the many. It must be a White House presided over by a black man who does not turn his back on the downtrodden here and abroad but challenges the forces of greed, dictatorial control of labor, consumers and taxpayers, and the militarization of foreign policy. It must be a White House that is transforming of American politics-- opening it up to the public funding of elections (through voluntary approaches)-- and allowing smaller candidates to have a chance to be heard on debates and in the fullness of their now restricted civil liberties. Call it a competitive democracy.

Your presidential campaign again and again has demonstrated cowardly stands. "Hope" some say springs eternal." But not when "reality" consumes it daily.
Follow the pack, Jabiz! Just trust in Obama to save America, the earth, and our progressive ideals! I hear this voice loud and clear. I feel alone. I feel like a trader, but I will not be able to celebrate tomorrow even after the historic landslide, even after all the fan fare. The circus will be staged as a mandate for false-liberals. Thousands, maybe millions of left leaning Americans will feel final they have their man. Built on the foundations of hope over fear, they will proclaim that their time has come, but the reality will be much different.

The top 1% of America’s wealthy will sigh and smile, realizing that they dodged another bullet. After some of the biggest land grabs in Iraq and Afghanistan, the emptying of the treasury and nearly bankrupting the nation, they will have once again diverted any chance of an American revolution. Instead of general strikes, protests in the streets, and grassroots organizing, they will have made the American people submissive with promises of optimism and change; they will continue to pursue their goals of wealth accumulation. Business as usual behind closed doors, the smiling face of change on the TV. America is back, you will chant.

Zach Roberts says it best here,
Obama has caught the moment, he’ll win tomorrow, probably by a landslide. Our hope for a great leader, I guess, is once again out-shined by the reality of “good-enough.” President Obama will continue the war in Afghanistan, continue NAFTA and CAFTA. All the while we will continue to kindly ask our dear great leader to listen to us. It will be a democracy, as we’ve had for decades, maybe a bit closer to our hopes but still mostly kept for our dreams.

I see Obama for who he was, just another frightened politician who when given a moment to show his true colors exposed himself to be yellow. I’m tired of these leaders, Democrat and Republican. They play on real people’s hopes and fears and use them for their own political ambition.
What makes this the hardest to swallow is that none of what I say matters. Most people are so tired of the mess American politics has become, they want an easy answer, and that is exactly what Obama is. The world is hungry for justice, for peace, for everything liberals fight for, but now these issues, these dreams have been hijacked by this Democratic charlatan and passed off as his own.

Maybe I am wrong. I hope I am wrong. I sometimes dream that upon his inauguration Obama will strip himself of the corporate shackles he has so willing worn throughout his career and perhaps deliver a speech like this:

My fellow Americans, I am here to address you not as the first African American president, but as the first president to put your needs before those of the corporate moneyed interests that have stolen our nation. I understand that every human being deserves a say in the decisions that affect their lives and not be subject to the will of another. Therefore, I will work to increase public participation at every level of government and to ensure that our public representatives are fully accountable to the people who elect them. I will also work to create new types of political organizations which expand the process of participatory democracy by directly including citizens in the decision-making process. As of now I denounce the Democratic Party and declare myself the first independent president of the Untied Sates. The White House is officially closed to Big Pharma, Big Argi-business, The Military Industrial Complex, and all the other corporate thieves who have hijacked our democracy. I only used their funds and influence to get elected, as of today I will work tirelessly to expel corporate America from government and return it to its rightful owners, the American people.

I believe that all persons should have the rights and opportunity to benefit equally from the resources afforded us by society and the environment. We must consciously confront in ourselves, our organizations, and society at large, barriers such as racism and class oppression, sexism and homophobia, ageism and disability, which act to deny fair treatment and equal justice under the law.

Human societies must operate with the understanding that we are part of nature, not separate from nature. We must maintain an ecological balance and live within the ecological and resource limits of our communities and our planet. We support a sustainable society which utilizes resources in such a way that future generations will benefit and not suffer from the practices of our generation. To this end we must practice agriculture which replenishes the soil; move to an energy efficient economy; and live in ways that respect the integrity of natural systems.

It is essential that we develop effective alternatives to society’s current patterns of violence. We will work to demilitarize, and eliminate weapons of mass destruction, without being naive about the intentions of other governments. We recognize the need for self-defense and the defense of others who are in helpless situations. We promote non-violent methods to oppose practices and policies with which we disagree, and will guide our actions toward lasting personal, community and global peace. I will end the War on Terror and bring our troops home today. I am not afraid to use the label imperialist to describe our actions. We must reevaluate our entire culture and work towards finding peace in our hearts. I will shut down the majority of the 170 US army bases that littler the globe guarding our imperialist interests.

Centralization of wealth and power contributes to social and economic injustice, environmental destruction, and militarization. Therefore, we support a restructuring of social, political and economic institutions away from a system which is controlled by and mostly benefits the powerful few, to a democratic, less bureaucratic system. Decision-making should, as much as possible, remain at the individual and local level, while assuring that civil rights are protected for all citizens. The corporate feeding frenzy is over. As your president, I am not afraid to mention wealth distribution any longer. We will cut defense spending and increase corporate taxes. No longer will oil companies make record profits while America mires in bankruptcy.

I recognize it is essential to create a vibrant and sustainable economic system, one that can create jobs and provide a decent standard of living for all people while maintaining a healthy ecological balance. A successful economic system will offer meaningful work with dignity, while paying a “living wage” which reflects the real value of a person’s work. I will work on deconstructing the World Bank and the IMF. No longer will we allow globalization and this new form of colonialism rape the rest of the world, so that we Americans can lead this unsustainable lifestyle.

Local communities must look to economic development that assures protection of the environment and workers’ rights; broad citizen participation in planning; and enhancement of our “quality of life.” We support independently owned and operated companies which are socially responsible, as well as co-operatives and public enterprises that distribute resources and control to more people through democratic participation. If this sounds like Socialism, that is because it is. No longer will words like unions, workers rights, and social programs be taboo in America.

I have inherited a social system based on male domination of politics and economics. We call for the replacement of the cultural ethics of domination and control with more cooperative ways of interacting that respect differences of opinion and gender. Human values such as equity between the sexes, interpersonal responsibility, and honesty must be developed with moral conscience. We should remember that the process that determines our decisions and actions is just as important as achieving the outcome we want.

I believe it is important to value cultural, ethnic, racial, sexual, religious and spiritual diversity, and to promote the development of respectful relationships across these lines.

I believe that the many diverse elements of society should be reflected in our organizations and decision-making bodies, and we support the leadership of people who have been traditionally closed out of leadership roles. I acknowledge and encourage respect for other life forms than our own and the preservation of biodiversity.

I encourage individuals to act to improve their personal well-being and, at the same time, to enhance ecological balance and social harmony. I seek to join with people and organizations around the world to foster peace, economic justice, and the health of the planet. I will examine and dissect the very core traits of the capitalists system that is destroying our planet and find alternatives.

My actions and policies should be motivated by long-term goals. I seek to protect valuable natural resources, safely disposing of or “unmaking” all waste we create, while developing a sustainable economics that does not depend on continual expansion for survival. We must counterbalance the drive for short-term profits by assuring that economic development, new technologies, and fiscal policies are responsible to future generations who will inherit the results of our actions.

In short, America, the change I was talking about during my campaign was not empty rhetoric and broken promises. I will not bend to corporate pressure. I ask you the American people to help me return to you what is rightfully yours. America is yours, help me build it to what it was meant to be.

There you have it folks. Maybe I will be extremely surprised by Obama’s actions after he wins. I am not holding my breath. If these ideas sound good to you, and sound a bit familiar, it is because they are the ten key values of the Green Party.

Later this week while everyone is celebrating because they feel they participated in a historic event, I will sit and brood over one of the biggest scams perpetuated on the American people. You were promised a liberal “socialist”, but really you were given another frightened politician who when given a moment to show his true colors exposed himself to be yellow.

This may be better then McCain. A message of hope may be better than a message of fear, but a lie is a lie, and it is difficult to take comfort in that. After Obama wins, celebrate America if you must, but please do not believe that you have done anything historic. Do not fool yourself into believing you have caused any change. You have done nothing more than tow the party line. You have allowed the American ruling class shift from team A to team B.


  1. i genuinely believe that obama is an intelligent, thoughtful human being. i reluctantly backed him because this is bigger than me. whatever you think about obama- americans are changing. i hope that his words are backed with action- but at the very least, i know in my heart that a large number of americans believe in change. the change at the top matters less than the change at the bottom and for whatever reason- obama personifies that change for many, many people. i have hope- not that obama will save america- but that americans will save america. the level of grassroots involvement and volunteering by everyday people in every state in the union- changed people. they got out door to door and interacted with each other and realized that we are going to have to work together to save this country and this planet. if it took an imperfect politician from illinois to do that- i am ok with that. the momentum from this campaign will have lasting effects around the world long after obama is out of office.

    as for nader- his words are fine. it's what he doesn't do to back them up that left me cold. coming out to run for president every 4 years doesn't cut it.

  2. I guess what I think about the lack of political action is summed up here, it's a review of Power and Powerlessness, by Gaventa, On pg. 21 is a concept drawn from Stephen Lukes idea about power. It is an advanced concept from observable demonstrations of power (mobilized voters, deployed military force, i.e. revolution) or observable power battles in agenda setting context (parliamentary strategy).

    That said, I'd like to hypothesize that we only have the luxury of hypothesizing about this particular paradox under a democratic administration. Then again, perhaps it is as if the evil one plays both sides.

  3. you're not wrong. hard as it is to say and hopeless as it makes me feel, you're right.
    as you know, i'm not an american but, like the rest of us, i'm sitting here watching the superpower play its power games.
    i just hope you are right when you take if for granted that mccain will indeed lose. given the current situation, obama -though he is indeed a corporate puppet- is definitely the lesser of both evils.

  4. Obama can't promise change because change doesn't come from the top down. I agree with most of what you say, but think you might be missing the point. Obama isn't promising something that he won't provide. He's promising something that he *can't* provide. I know that sounds like splitting hairs, but the distinction is important to me because it subtly shifts responsibility. If Obama is choosing not to make change, then I could spend all my time standing around pointing fingers. But if he *can't*, then I'm forced to ask who can. And it turns out that the answer is "I can" and I don't have time for standing around pointing fingers, I've got some gardens to tend and some neighbors to bullshit with.

  5. BZ - I hate to say it but I think you've utterly missed the point of this election.

    Obama HAS ALREADY BROUGHT MASSIVE, EARTH-SHAKING CHANGE just by being the first black president. With an Islamic name, no less.

    That's far bigger than the whining of that elderly loser Nader, or whatever other issues you're worried about.

    Ten Naders could be elected, floating on hoverbikes with halos and thousands of tiny Che Guevaras and Eddie Vedders floating around them singing their praises, and it still wouldn't equal one Obama. Actually, take a minute to picture President Nader, and what he'd accomplish. NOTHING. That guy'd get nothing done. Everyone would hate him. No one would follow him. He'd be the worst president in history. POLITICS IS ABOUT COMPROMISE. Why you can't see that is beyond me. Unless you'd prefer a dictator? Emperor Nader? Darth Nader?

    Obama could choke on a pretzel tomorrow and die, and he'd still be the most significant president of the last century or so. It's a huge accomplishment, and a great day for democracy, even Nader's bitter old man's brand of sour-grapes democracy.

    You should be celebrating. Everyone who is aware of anything at all about American history should be awestruck at this event.

    If you really can't see that, I'm really sorry for you.