How do you fight?
Lately I’ve been getting deluged with emails from politicians like President Obama, various Democratic Party fundraisers and political organizations that go a little like this:
I want to fight for you!
Can you help me out with $3, $5, $10 or more?
Really? These folks want to fight for me?
Look Honey, there’s a fella in a thousand dollar suit who wants to fight for me!
Were these guys fighting for me when they failed to meaningfully address climate change, or when Mr. Obama created and doggedly stuck to his disasterous “all of the above” energy policy? Were these guys fighting for me when they extended yet again the endless war – draining the blood and treasure of America despite the fact that those we are wasting trillions to incinerate pose no imminent threat to the United States? How about when they set up the Catfood Commission and tried to grand bargain away some part of my Social Security benefits? Was “my team” fighting for me when they set up secret trade deals that give corporations vast powers to force their demands on communities and destroy the environment with impunity?
Say, do you remember when Mr. Obama promised repeatedly that his signature accomplishment, Obamacare, would be transparent and negotiated in public on C-Span and then decided that the public didn’t need to see what the choices are? Who was “our team” fighting for when they froze out advocates of a single payer health system and then passed a new law guaranteeing a $100 billion a year subsidy to the insurance industry but leaving millions of Americans uninsured?
How about when a bunch of corrupt bankers crashed our economy, costing average Americans huge amounts of money, robbing state and local budgets of money for citizen services and threw millions of Americans out of work? Oops, wait a minute…
Oh, they do want to fight!
Aha! Now we have an example of “our team” fighting …
Ooops! They seem to be fighting for the guys who robbed us.
The ubiquitous rhetoric about “fighting” would seem entirely hyperbolic, except we can see what happens when the people that our government actually works for and responds to – and it’s been happening since about the time of the Whiskey Rebellion…
Got a gripe? The “folks who want to fight for you” have some men with guns, sniper rifles, humvees, mine resistant ambush protected personnel carriers, tanks and drones who have been trained by Israeli counterterrorism and assassination teams that they’d like you to meet. The President and Congress have been spending billions of dollars to arm, train and militarize America’s
peace officers thugs.
So, when the people of Ferguson had a serious issue with their government and organized to protest and demand change, they were met by an Israeli trained “police” force armed to the teeth with military equipment. Counterterrorism and brutal techniques were deployed, huge amounts of tear gas were dispensed and peaceful protesters were threatened by snipers aiming lethal weapons at them from the top of tanks.
Wait, they won’t fight for us and they still want my $3?
That’s some nerve! These guys don’t really need our money, they could get all they really need from the rich, powerful interests that they work for.
The wealthy move national policy, and average Americans are effectively powerless.
“Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association. (But) despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts,” Gilens and Page wrote in a study that will be published this fall in the journal Perspectives in Politics.
It’s about legitimacy.
It has become something of a cliché for political campaigns to tout, when announcing the month or quarter or year’s fundraising totals, the large percentage of donations from small donors — the implication being that having a large share of small donors translates into impressive grassroots support.
The corporate biparty has destroyed American national politics. The average person’s donations don’t influence politicians after the sale, so to speak, nor do their national election voting intentions matter as Gilens and Page’s research attests:
In fact, even in areas where a vast majority of Americans do care passionately about something but it cuts against the interests of the wealthy and elite in America, they lose at the national level.
“When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites…or with organized interests, they generally lose,” Gilens and Page wrote. “Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.”
The system is utterly broken and when people voice dissent and try to organize to make change – the politicians call in their militarized thugs to beat people up, jail them and drive them out of public spaces, they infiltrate groups and when they go home (or anywhere) they spy on them.
There is no reason to lend any sort of legitimacy to these deplorable politicians.
Real people politics has gone underground
Chris Hedges recently wrote an opinion piece where he suggested that the organizers of real political change have been driven underground. He describes the current officially sanctioned American politics as a “carnival act” in the article:
Politics, if we take politics to mean the shaping and discussion of issues, concerns and laws that foster the common good, is no longer the business of our traditional political institutions. These institutions, including the two major political parties, the courts and the press, are not democratic. They are used to crush any vestiges of civic life that calls, as a traditional democracy does, on its citizens to share among all its members the benefits, sacrifices and risks of a nation. They offer only the facade of politics, along with elaborate, choreographed spectacles filled with skillfully manufactured emotion and devoid of real political content. …
Politics in the hands of the corporate state is anti-politics. It is designed to denigrate and destroy the values that make a liberal democracy and political participation possible. It is a cynical form of mass control. Corporate money has replaced the vote. Dissent is silenced or ignored. Political parties are Punch and Judy shows funded by corporate puppeteers. Universities, once the epicenter of social change, are corporate headquarters, flush with corporate money, government contracts and foundation grants. The commercial press, whose primary task is attracting advertising dollars, has become an arm of the entertainment industry. It offers news as vaudeville.
Genuine political activity, the organizing work needed to protect citizens from the abuses of power, exists only on the margins of society. Politics in America has gone underground.
He’s absolutely right. All of the national political organizing that organizes citizen discussion and action to promote the public interest is happening outside of the electoral system. Movements like Occupy, the climate change movement, the “fight for 15” living wage movement, the struggle against police militarization and brutality and others are all happening outside of traditional political structures and they are met with varying degrees of physical resistance from the corporate biparty system.
There is a lot of change to make, but it is apparent that the force that causes it will be an active citizenry acting from outside of the sanctioned political system, finding new ways to fight the corporate state and impose citizen rule again.
It seems silly to waste time and money on the parties and politicians who have little desire to promote the public good where it varies from the interests of wealthy people and corporations. Continuing to grant them legitimacy by giving them money, votes and other support perpetuates their mindset that they can ignore the interests of the vast majority of citizens.