American Elections: The Greatest Show on Earth
America’s spectacle-ized elections are staged skirmishes between various camps of corporate-commissioned technicians crafting meticulously mediated images called “candidates,” not—as the Democracy Myth would have it—honest struggles between competing proposals for maximizing the common good.
The few allowable ideas that are “debated” in the scripted political arena are window dressing serving to obscure the fact that politics, in the traditional sense, has disappeared in plain sight.
What remains in the realm of real power is a technically-oriented politics of practicality: struggles over the means of administering the technological society among the rapacious few who vie to do so. The rest, with little or no power over the actual functioning of society, are compensated by entertaining but largely meaningless cycles of electoral circuses.
is american Democracy Extinct?
The Lincoln Test
Abraham Lincoln famously fretted over our government of, by, and for the people, wondering whether it would perish from the earth. Let’s check the scorecard:
of the people
A government of the people would be made up of citizens accessible to the masses and responsive to their concerns.
0 for 1!
by THE PEOPLE
A government by the people would represent the population’s great diversity, sharing common experiences with the populace enabling them to empathize with the plight of the average American man, woman and child.
0 for 2!
for THE PEOPLE
A government for the people would include individuals who give a rat’s ass about the quality of life outside their personal circles.
Strike 3, Democracy’s out!
Seriously, can anyone look at these three conditions and argue that American Democracy hasn’t gone the way of the dodo? But if we no longer have a democracy and politics is an illusion, then what do we have?
Government of, by, and for the corporations
In his book Democracy Inc., Sheldon Wolin details a new kind of totalitarianism, a form of “Smiley-Faced Fascism” that he believes has replaced democracy in America. Chris Hedges summarizes Wolin’s thesis:
America’s language and iconography have remained largely the same in that words such as Freedom and Democracy, symbols like The Founders, The Flag and The Statue of Liberty, and holidays such as The Fourth of July still infuse public consciousness. What’s changed is the entire power structure, a structure no longer responsive to “the will of the people” save for the people at the very top of the economic ladder.
To continue to believe in politics as usual—and especially to hope and pray every four years for one side of the Plutocracy (Red or Blue) to assume power and “fix” things—is to fall further down the rabbit hole of our political illusion.
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Frank Zappa, The Real Frank Zappa Book
Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address
Sheldon Wolin, Democracy Inc.
Chris Hedges, Wages of Rebellion, The Sanctuary for Independent Media