Tuesday, October 30, 2012

US politics, money, confusion, the best democracy money can buy.

I have not much experience of national political campaigns in other countries but here in the US it is just non stop.  The presidential race starts a couple of years prior and here we are with a week to go and alongside the presidential election we have numerous local races and various measures and propositions to decide on, those that vote that is.

Voter turnout in the US is far lower than most advanced capitalist economies and in nonpresidential-election years, voter turnout has barely exceeded one-third of voting-age adults. I think that turnout for propositions and measures might be a little greater as people don't have to pick a candidate of one of the two Wall Street parties.

Every morning, my mailbox is filled with glossy campaign brochures for local candidates as well as local county and state measures.  Billions of dollars are spent on political advertising, the total spent on television advertising by all presidential candidates was $168 million in 2000 and $564 million in 2004* Then there is television and they are coming fast and furious. The 40 minutes or so I have taken to write this I must have heard 25 or more different ads for various measures to raise taxes to save various public services or our schools. One person just came on urging me to vote for a proposal that will stop special interests from influencing politics.  Another person came on telling me that this measure is a scam and was consciously written deceptively to fool us so I should vote against it.

If the public is presented with a proposal that they can vote yes or no on, and this proposal is purposefully deceptive and an outright "scam".  What is is doing on the ballot? What sort of democracy allows that? But most Americans will tell you they are totally confused by it all.
In 2008, businesses spent roughly $65 billion on television advertising for a range of products, politics being one of them.  They deceive, coerce, lie and cheat their way in to our hearts and minds and this is what they call democracy and freedom.

I pay more attention than most workers probably and it overwhelms me also.  I was talking to a woman the other day who said that she simply can't make up her mind and doesn't have the time to find out what with work, the kids and all.  I don't vote for the candidates of the two Wall Street parties I told her, in California I can vote for a socialist candidate, in many states this option isn't there.  But for measures and other legislative proposals I vote and if I'm not sure I simply check out what forces are supporting it. One just came up and I couldn't determine what I would do by the commentary until I looked at the "paid for by" piece at the bottom. I saw General Mills and Cargill and that's enough for me. There's no way these forces are up to any good.

With the creation of these super pacs even more money will be spent influencing people to vote against their own class interests, some reports I read say maybe $6 billion in the presidential race.

One article I was reading suggested that the low voter turnout in the US is due to
"a passive vote of confidence".  The complete opposite is true in my opinion.  I think that the reason 90 million or so will not vote next week is due not to passive acceptance or apathy, but a complete disgust with it all.  Millions of Americans have drawn the conclusion through experience that when it comes to the basics, food, housing, wages and a good job, in other words, their material well being, the two parties are very much the same.  Coupled with the legal bribery we call lobbying over here and the rampant corruption, people have just given up; they see no way out.  I don't not believe we can transform society through the ballot box, in fact, we have won very little in this way. The social legislation that arose in the 1930's for example was simply putting on paper what had already been won in the streets and workplaces. But we won the right to vote and should defend it. And we can have some influence with legislation that can benefit us, albeit temporarily.

The dictatorship that the two Wall Street parties have in the political arena and the failure on the part of the heads of organized Labor to challenge it, contributes to the low level of class consciousness in the US compared to other advanced capitalist countries.  We are swamped 24/7 as we say here in the US, with ads, movies, shows, etc, that influence fewer and fewer people where electoral politics is concerned.  I was checking out some details on the US electoral system and one site explained the difference between our two party system and multi-party democracies with proportional representation:

"In many countries with multi-party systems, the range of beliefs is greater, and disagreements run deeper. For example, in modern day Russia, one party advocates a return to communism, some offer modified socialism and/or capitalism, and one promotes ultra-nationalism"The US, has a bi-party dictatorship, we are led to believe because:
".......Americans share a broad consensus, or agreement, of many basic political values. Both parties believe in liberty, equality, and individualism." **

So let''s not be perturbed that close to half of us have opted out of electoral politics, more in local races, as it's a vote of confidence in our political system and the politicians in it. We believe in liberty and the rest of the world doesn't, that's why they hate us remember.

As for me, I'll be glad when it's all over next week,

*Advertising E ffects in Presidential Elections , Brett R. Gordony Wesley R. Hartmannz

** UShistory.org

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