Sunday, July 15, 2012

US elections: the best democracy money can buy

"Brethren we conjure you...not to believe a word of what is being said about your interests and those of your employers being the same. Your interests and theirs are in a nature of things, hostile and irreconcilable.  Then do not look to them for relief...Our salvation must, through the blessing of God, come from ourselves.  It is useless to expect it from those whom our labors enrich." (1)

This is an election year in the US and the amounts of money needed to keep the best democracy money can buy going are staggering. Wall Street and the 1% has two candidates for president, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.  Romney is the candidate of the Republican Party, Obama the Democratic Party.  They both want to help ordinary folk.

Last month, Romney raised $106 million and Obama $71 million.  Obama is a bit worried about this and made an appeal to workers to "chip in $3.00 or more today."  so that "ordinary people" can "decide elections".  Well, ordinary people may "decide" who wins an election in which we have no representatives running because we have no political party of our own. It's a slam dunk for Wall Street.

Most Americans simply withdraw from the electoral process as the choices are so limited. Both candidates wax eloquent about about how much they love the average Joe, Romney says he wants to help "middle class families" as does Obama.  We have only two economic classes here, the rich and the middle class. There is the poor, but they are not in a class and are sometimes referred to as the "underclass". There is no working class here according to the politicians of the 1% in the Democratic Party and their allies at the helm of the Labor movement. Obama said the other day that "Too many of our Friends and neighbors are out of work".  Aw shucks!  His friends and neighbors are doing OK.

Both Romney and Obama hold lavish fundraising galas where workers and those they refer to as the "middle classes" are persona non grata.  On July 8th, Romney held a $50,000 a plate fundraiser at the Hampton home of the billionaire David Koch.  Obama held a $40,000 a plate fundraiser at George Clooney's home in May and one in Sarah Jessica Parker's Manhattan townhouse in June. The 99%, the salt of the earth, the workers of America are not welcome here.  Not only are they not welcome, the candidates are very careful to ensure that the comments they make at these events are kept secret. What do we think they are promising them for a $50,000 a plate dinner? "What do they tell their big donors that they don't tell the rest of us?" Melanie Sloan of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington asks.

After Obama's slip when he made those comments that some small town voters are "bitter" and "cling to guns and religion" and it getting out that Romney was heard at one fundraiser talking about eliminating the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and putting and end to the mortgage interest deduction on second homes, both candidates are taking steps to ensure their discussions with the 1% are kept out of the public realm. They make scripted statements to the rest of us as they ensure the rich folks that their interests will not be harmed and workers and the middle class will bear the brunt of the capitalist crisis. Obama has his campaign workers confiscate guests cell phones and put them in plastic bags in the hope that his real views are kept among his friends.  Romney refuses to make public what he says at these events or how many attend them, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

When they speak to their donors, both candidates keep us and journalists out.

Manipulating the public is becoming ever more costly in US politics.  According to BW,  "Obama has had 177 fundraising appearances during his third and fourth years of his presidency." By comparison, George Bush had 86, Bill Clinton 70, George HW Bush 24, Jimmy Carter 25 and between 1983-84, Reagan had three.

It's working for them
The point is that the vast majority of US workers recognize that these politicians do not represent our interests which is why the voter turnout is so low in this country.  Voting is not an exercise in civics.  People vote in the hope that it will improve their material well being, they join Unions for the same reason.  When neither produces the required results, popularity for such institutions wane and people become cynical.  For those that do bother to vote against their own class interests, they hold their nose and do so, or they participate in identity politics---pro or anti-choice, guns or the environment, gay marriage or prayer in schools. if you're going to be poor no matter who gets in, this is what tends to dominate. They also vote for the lesser of two evils. What does that say about the US electoral system? Some choice.

So much of US political chatter is about whether someone has integrity or not.  Are they "nice people"?  Much personal stuff and less political, more about the individual.  But a political party does not exist in a vacuum, it has class content. A political party represents groups with certain economic interests, sections of society.  The Democrats, the former slaveowners party and the Republicans, are capitalist parties. these parties defend and promote the interests of the capitalist class, the 1% of that class in particular. The Democrats that pretend to be friends of Labor cannot and will not prevent the assault we are now facing. Labor and various other elements can have some minor influence on it, but in the end, its social base is the 1%.  Democrats and Republicans may differ on some details but on the basics they are in agreement; the working class will pay.

Business Week points out that the same week Obama made the $3.00 fund appeal to you and me, he "..headlined two $40,000 a plate events at Washington's Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The $3.00 regular people were not invited."

There's one simple thing to remember, he who pays the piper calls the tune.

(1) 1840's appeal from New England laborers. Philip Foner History of the Labor Movement Vol. 1 p192

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