“The Choice”

One month before the 2012 presidential election, the “Public” Broadcasting System’s investigative journalism show FRONTLINE last night broadcast a show purporting to “present the definitive portraits of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.” The show, titled “The Choice,” provided sensitive, deeply researched and highly personal biographies of the two official contenders, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. “

The Choice” was as remarkable for what it left out as it was for what it included. It was loaded with details about each candidate’s family histories and marriages and past careers and campaigns. At the same time, it was silent about the different and yet all too similar policy agendas of the two business-backed candidates or about the massive amounts of elite money that has paid for both of the campaigns in what had already become by far and away the most expensive U.S. election of all time..

Americans need to pick from options that go deeper than one more staggered, once-every-1460-days contest between two elite-sponsored state-capitalist politicians. “We must make our choice. We may have democracy in this country,” U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis noted more than six decades ago, “or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.” That is the real choice for serious citizens beneath and beyond the much ballyhooed choice offered between two candidates selected for us in advance by the powers that be. Acting on that choice involves in a seriously democratic fashion is not a simple or easy matter. It involves difficult and detailed, movement-building work each and every day, not just once very four years. As Howard Zinn explained in an essay on the “election madness” he saw “engulfing the entire society, including the left” with special intensity in the year of Obama’s election:

"The election frenzy seizes the country every four years because we have all been brought up to believe that voting is crucial in determining our destiny, that the most important act a citizen can engage in is to go to the polls and choose one of the two mediocrities who have already been chosen for us…… Would I support one [presidential] candidate against another? Yes, for two minutes-the amount of time it takes to pull the lever down in the voting booth…But before and after those two minutes, our time, our energy, should be spent in educating, agitating, organizing our fellow citizens in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the schools. Our objective should be to build, painstakingly, patiently but energetically, a movement that, when it reaches a certain critical mass, would shake whoever is in the White House, in Congress, into changing national policy on matters of war and social justice.”

At some point next year, the latest and current “election frenzy” will have receded like a bad hangover. It always does. As the dull crush of many-sided elitist rule sinks back into popular consciousness, the time will be ripe again for popular mobilization. dedicated to a different, more serious, and deeper vision of politic….

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