Absurdities of the US Electorate

October 25, 2010 at 9:26 pm | Posted in Political Economy | Leave a comment
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Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad…using this apt Latin metaphor, in a recent post, Ed Darrell notes the absurdity of the current US mid-term election campaign. An electorate that was passive in 2000 when the US Supreme Court stole a presidential election and the ‘winner’ in that election went on to wage war against a country that could not have threatened the US or defended itself is now screaming ‘socialism’ when the government seeks to provide a minimum level of health care to the young and the elderly while careful to preserve the high profits of insurance companies. An electorate seemingly unconcerned with the enormous cost of the illegal wars waged in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the evidence of billions of dollars being distributed in plastic bags, is enraged at a modest stimulus to the US economy. An electorate that does not register the torture of Iraqis by US forces or the ‘rendition’ of alleged ‘terrorists’ for torture by other states sees plans to build a mosque in downtown Manhattan as proof of the Islamicization of the United States. It is an electorate that continues to believe, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that its first non-Caucasian president is a Muslim.

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The paradox is heightened by the ‘grassroots’ opposition to the elites when it is the elites funding the ‘grassroots’ Tea Party Movement. George Monbiot has documented how the two Koch brothers–owners of the second largest privately held company in the US and each worth over $21 billion–have financed a bevy of special interest groups to fund and sustain the Tea Party Movement so that they can retain more of their profits, avoid regulation, and pay less taxes. And once the John Roberts Supreme Court ruled restrictions on campaign financing unconstitutional, it has opened the floodgates to corporate financing of elections. Never before in US elections have large corporations and wealthy individuals contributed so much to an election campaign as reported by the New York Times and the Financial Times.

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Elite sponsorship of essentially white working class protests is all the more striking as the unemployed workers blame the government for the loss of jobs and the high rate of unemployment, when it is the corporate members of the US Chambers of Commerce–funding the Tea Party candidates–that are responsible for outsourcing US jobs overseas! “American Free Enterprise” is creating more jobs overseas than it is at home!

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In part, this disconnection between perceptions and reality among the electorate is because of the absence of critical voices in the mainstream media. There are hardly any representatives of labor or of working families on news shows in the last two decades. Instead we are fed with a constant stream of well-paid talking heads, representing no opinion but their own. There is, hence no questioning of the functioning of the economic system. John Boehner, the Republican leader poised to become the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, has pointedly refused to specify how he would cut the deficit–and in fact, he cannot.

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It was, after all, under Republican presidents–Reagan, Geoge H W Bush, George W Bush–that the Federal deficit ballooned beyond control. In the absence of critical commentary, the Republican Party and their Tea Party affiliates have been focusing on side issues–on whether President Barack Obama is American-born or whether he is a Muslim–to evade debate on crucial issues. And they have been able to do this because he is not a Caucasian!

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Such racist, and frankly incoherent, rhetoric has gained ascendancy primarily because serious debate has been eliminated from mainstream media–especially television. Instead of sustained debate on serious issues, we are fed a steady diet of inconsequential issues–debate on the mosque in Manhattan, the pastor of essentially a family congregation in Florida threatening to burn the Koran, the racist rants of Juan Williams and Bill O’Reilly–rather than issues of substance.

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