Inaugural Post: Dangers of False Hope
Welcome former readers of Jared’s Political Newsletter! I thought I’d kick off the blog with an oldie, but goodie – the last post from the old newsletter at the time of the 2008 election. I’m pretty happy about how it stands up a year later and given some or your angry responses to it at the time, feel free to write and apologize 🙂 Enjoy!
Dangers of False Hope
Yes, I know graduate school has killed off this newsletter for almost two years now, but still I have your email addresses! I still have hopes of transmuting it into a blog at some point in the future. When that will be, I don’t know.
In the meantime, I thought I might share some thoughts about the election tomorrow (warning: Obama fans continue reading at your own peril). There has been much ado regarding this election: the first viable woman candidate, the rise of a black candidate (with a Muslim name), the McCain comeback in the primaries, and the emergence of the Alaskan, misogynist, half-wit known as Sarah Palin. As if these political developments were not interesting enough, we’ve seen the largest financial meltdown since the Great Depression (soon to be known as GD1) unfold during the heart of the election season. All of this is very exciting (way more exciting than my life in graduate school, that’s for sure), but it seems to me in the midst of this Bacchanalia many on the Left are confused and about what this election means (or doesn’t mean).
Let’s first clear up the idea this election is the “most important election of your lives.” Yes, I know liberals love to spew this cute little platitude every four years (hey, wasn’t the last election the most important election in my life??), but to buy into this joke you actually need to believe that something will significantly change depending upon which candidate is elected. We have a one party system. There is a left and right wing of the Corporate or Pro-Business or Special Interests Party of the United States (call it what you like). Many of the Left often get confused about the historical role the Democratic Party has played in US politics over say the last sixty years (I highly suggest hitting the library and checking out titles under the subjects “War in Indochina”, “NAFTA”, “Unions”, “Healthcare”, just to get started). The Democratic Party is not a real vehicle for change in America. It has never been a vehicle for change and it will never be a vehicle for real change. Just because Democrats happen to be a little less racist, misogynist, or xenophobic then their fraternal twins – the Republicans – does not mean that the left should put their faith in them. Just because they have served as an occasional conduit for change initiated from below also does not mean the left should put their faith in them. This analysis cuts both ways – I can hardly see why the conservatives get so scared of the Democrats considering their agendas differ only so slightly (a couple hundred dollars tax break is what your party affiliation is based on? Really?). I do concede that in the culture war against right-wing, anti-rational extremism (in particular the war on women and homosexuals), the Democrats serve some use, but this is only as a buttress. And a little bit of research will show one that the Democrats are not to be relied upon for this fight (plus, other measures can always be taken to ward these developments if need be in this great country of ours).
The “hope” manufactured by the Democrats this election season is not the real hope of progressives – in fact, it is not even close. This illusion of “false hope” has coalesced around two key factors. First, in less than three months, George Bush or the “Butcher of Baghdad,” will not be President anymore. Yes, this is very exciting for those of us on the left. I, as much as everyone else, would like to see this frat boy-simpleton go back to clearing brush, instead of destroying countries, creating an American Gulag, and embarrassing our nation. While Bush and his administration are an egregious affront to pretty much everything America is “supposed” to stand for, not to mention pretty much everything Western liberal thought of the last three hundred stands for (revisiting the issue of torture has been my favorite), the operative word here is “egregious” — they are not an anomaly. The Bush administration was not the radical departure from previous administrations, both Democrat and Republican, as liberals would like you to believe (“Oh, those good ole days of the Clinton presidency!” Are you serious?). In ideological and in practical terms the Bush administration has not been that different from others, they just did it with a little more pizzazz if you will. Just look at the Bush Doctrine (if you’re not Palin, you should be able to answer this) – the defining doctrine of the Bush foreign policy. In short, it is a declaration the US can and will do whatever it wants on the international stage, whenever it wants to. The Bush Doctrine is just same as the Clinton Doctrine (or any other Democratic President doctrine before it) just with an additional big middle finger (See Madeleine Albright’s usual comments about America’s role on the international stage if you don’t believe me).
Second, Barack Obama is an African-American. Yes, this is also very exciting. I, too, dig the idea of someone other than a rich, white male running the country (and heck, I just like African-Americans better :)). But just because Barack Obama is an African-American does not mean he will enact a liberal or even progressive agenda, nor does this mean he will magically heal racial divides in this country. Obama is a member of the Democratic Party and that allegiance overrides the color of his skin or his background. It certainly is a step in the right direction to have an African-American president, but a step is different than reaching the finish line. I do not understand how this fact alone should contribute to one’s choice on Election Day. In addition, we should also be aware of the repercussions of his possible presidency. Just as conservatives and white middle-class clowns have cited the “civil rights movement” they learned about in high school history courses as evidence that racism doesn’t exist in this country (of course followed by some story about they are the new “victims” of racism), an Obama presidency will go a long way to further obfuscate the abhorrent racism that lingers just below the surface in this country. I, of course, am not saying one should allow the latent racism of the white middle-class class to set the country’s agenda, but we need to aware of the backlash beyond the obvious chicanery that will result of an Obama presidency.
Those on the left need to keep this albeit understandable excitement in check and seriously ask themselves some questions tomorrow: what exactly will Barack Obama and the Democratic Party change in America? Let’s take a quick overview. Economic policy: will the Democrats defy their corporate benefactors and punish those responsible for the financial meltdown on Wall St.? Will they recoup the monies lost for regular, working Americans? Will they actually nationalize the bank system so the profits will be paid back to those who deserve them? Will change the economic landscape of this country in order help America push through this economic crisis (meaning will re-industrialize this nation, instead of perpetuating our current status as a financial hothouse)? Will economic decisions be based on the needs of actual working people or instead court corporations and the elite? Of course they won’t. The Democrats go to the same corporate trough that the Republicans do every election season in case you forgot. How about foreign policy: will the Democrats pull all US troops out of Iraq? Will stop creating more terrorism by terrorizing other countries? Will they end this fictitious “war on terror”? Will they decry the use of violence in order protect and sustain the movement of US capital across national borders at any cost? No, they won’t. And domestic issues: will ensure that homosexuals get all the rights they deserve? No they won’t. Am I only freaking person in this country who finds it ironic to watch a black man running for president largely in part due to the civil rights movement declaring on national television that he won’t support the civil rights of gays? The rights of homosexuals /is/ the civil rights issue of our generation – get on the train or resign yourself to history’s dustbin of bigots and losers. How about our fantastic election system: will votes continue to be stolen in every election? Will there ever be any serious campaign finance reform? Will we someday become a democracy? Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on this bullshit pomp and pageantry so one or two million undecided idiots in this country can pick between two corporate parties, not to mention the fact that the majority of these idiots will likely make their decision based on who will give them a bigger tax cut or with whom they think they would like to have a beer. Is this really necessary every four years? Can we not put that money to something better? How about the electoral college? Why in the name of God do we still use the electoral college? It’s fucking embarrassing – ever try explaining it to a foreigner? How about health care? How about the poor? How about the children who go to bed hungry every night in this country? I could go on forever.
The point is that the “change” Obama and buddies are peddling will be so inconsequential and insignificant it may be impossible to even register it. You can make utilitarian arguments about the greater benefit of a Obama presidency versus a McCain one – yes, a few more children might have a warm home, yes, a few more poor people might have access to healthcare and food, yes, perhaps we’ll bomb to death a few less women and children in countries half way around the world, yes, perhaps America will only antagonize a few other countries on the international scene. But is this how we should measure progress – with a damn microscope? Don’t we owe it to ourselves and future generations to accomplish more than this? Real and significant change in this country has only and will only from the fringes and from below. It has and will only come from progressive, radical, and enlightened individuals who believe in something other than greed and God. We have been the only source of change in this country’s history and it is a farce and a crime that for hundreds of years the Republicans and Democrats have taken credit for the freedoms for which our predecessors have shed blood and tears. We will all wake up on Wednesday, and next January, and two years from now this country will be no different than it is today because of this election. It can only be different if we decide to change the values and goals of this country, namely generate a viable economic alternative to corporate capitalism and a political system that marginalizes the poor, women, and minorities, by making a real commitment to the liberty and equality for all, instead of waiting for “elections” and “politicians” to do it for us. In short, I do not believe in filtering water down change through a broken system — I believe that false hope is a dangerous thing because it obscures our real goals and aspirations on the left.
I am voting for Ralph Nader next Tuesday — an American committed to real and tangible change in this country. No, I don’t think he’ll win and frankly, I don’t really care. For the reasons stated above, I don’t find any reason to vote in a one party race. I’m voting for a candidate that actually represents my views – this is, at the very least, a democratic act in an un-democratic system, at most, a revolutionary idea. We live in a Constitutional Republic (“I pledge allegiance to the…”) crafted some two-hundred years ago by a group of rich, white males interested in protecting their class from the masses. We do not live in a democracy (trust me – look it up). The sad part is that we even have to hold elections every four years to vindicate those who would rule us even without them. When you pull the lever on Tuesday for your centrist Democrat (or member of the left wing of the Republican Party), remember that the function of our elections has always been to “protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.” This is the process you are participating in. By the way, quote is from James Madison…he wrote the Constitution.