avatar
ELECTION 2000: A SPACE ODYSSEY


Jim Hightower

The

quadrennial presidential horserace is on, and the media establishment has

unleashed its multimillion-dollar army of pundits, pollsters, powdered anchors,

analysts, chart makers, gossips, make-up artists, set designers and others to

drum up the drama, telling us peasants over and over again how exciting, how

momentous, how democratic it all is.

This

is choice? Which one of them is going to stand up for your family against the

whims of the polluters, the downsizers, the tax loopholers, the corporate

welfare bums, the HMOs, the media conglomerates, and all the rest of the

establishment, which is flanked by an elite corps of $500-an-hour Gucci-clad

lobbyists and armed with enough campaign cash to build an impenetrable wall

around Washington?

Even

before anyone casts a ballot, IT’S ALREADY OVER! No matter which of the

Republicrat Egos finally ends up in the big chair in the Oval Office, the

policies of our government will not change on the kitchen-table issues that most

affect Americans. Already decided is the crucial question of who government will

serve, assuring a continuation of the status quo on middle-class income loss,

global trade scams, weak-kneed environmental gradualism, mega-mergers, biotech

insanity, campaign finance corruption, etcetera.

This

is because the real election was held last year in various corporate suites and

in the Martha Stewart-designed living rooms of the rich, where 0.05 percent of

"the people" voted. These are the CEOs, lobbyists, and investors who

bankrolled BushGoreBradleyMcCain and any other wannabe with even a faint chance

of winning the Republican or Democratic primaries. These privileged few vetted

the prospective candidates, making certain that each of them can be trusted to

govern in the corporate interest. Candidates that don’t pass muster don’t get

money. Period. The result is that in 1999, the moneyed interests chose our

choices for 2000. For example, Goldman Sachs and its executives have put

thousands and thousands of dollars into Al Gore’s campaign. And into George

Bush’s. And into John McCain’s. And into Bill Bradley’s. No matter who wins,

Goldman Sachs has a friend in the White House-and probably will get at least one

of its own executives appointed to a key administrative position, from which to

keep an eye on the company’s political investment.

But

Goldman Sachs and the other plutocrats also win because their donations assure

that none of the contenders will be making trouble in the campaign by taking any

nonconformist, nonauthorized positions that could spark a bothersome debate

about the plutocracy itself, inflaming the peasantry’s simmering economic and

political resentments. By purchasing candidates wholesale, they guarantee a

campaign that is much ado about nothing, with the debate restricted to social

issues like abortion, hokey issues like who can downsize government the most

(while hypocritically lavishing ever more wasteful spending on the Pentagon, the

antidrug war, and corporate welfare), local issues like zoning and traffic jams,

and nonissues like which candidates can be the most pious about never ever even

thinking about doing cigar tricks with White House interns.

What

a shame that our nation’s politics is so corrupted and worthless these days,

that our two-party leadership is such an embarrassment, for America really could

have used an honest pulse-taking in 2000. All hoopla aside, the turning of a

century, much less a millennium, is a significant marker, an attention-focusing

opportunity to have a thorough public conversation-maybe even a bit of national

contemplation-about our people’s progress and our national direction. If our

political system was not totally twisted, this election could have been a time

when the parties, the candidates, and the media all came out to us plebeians,

actually listening to the reality of regular people’s situations, debating a

plethora of unconventional (i.e., noncorporate) ideas, and generally conducting

a kind of two-year, coast-to-coast political Chatauqua-not quite a plebiscite,

but at least a "whaddaya think" consultation on charting America’s

twenty-first century course. Instead, 2000 will be like ’96, ’92-another

money-soaked, corporate-driven, issue-avoiding, made-for-television snoozer,

completely unconnected to real life.

Politics

should matter. I know that’s a radical thought, perhaps hopelessly idealistic in

this age of carefully calculated political centrism, when the money backers

demand candidates who are inoffensive (especially inoffensive to money

interests), and when the army of consultants that directs every campaign insists

that the way to win is not to lose. So both parties are scuttling cautiously

along the pollster-tested center line like a couple of sand crabs, going

sideways for fear of being perceived as either moving forward or backward.

There

actually was a time when a Democratic presidential nominee was a species

discernibly different from the Republican, when the Democrat was not skittish

about kicking corporate ass, and when the Democratic Party didn’t need a

consulting firm to figure out who it was for . . . and who it was against. This

is a party with a heroic history of siding unequivocally with the common people

against the bastards, a party that once even voted by a four-to-one margin as

its national convention to disown any political candidate within its own ranks

"who is the representative of or under obligation to J. Pierpont Morgan . .

. or any other member of the privilege-hunting and favor-seeking class."

Today,

the Democratic Party itself, as well as its top candidates, boast of being under

obligation to Morgan-or, more specifically, to J.P. Morgan Inc. and Morgan

Stanley, the two Wall Street firms spawned by old J. Pierpont. Democrats go

shamelessly and often into these houses of greed, obsequiously seeking campaign

funds in a straight-up exchange for their populist principles and constituency.

So far, Al Gore has bagged $17,000 just from the two Morgan firms, and the

Democratic Party is obligated to the tune of $75,000.

Now

comes Election 2000, a space odyssey so far out that even Stanley Kubrick would

have a hard time imagining it. Fueled by an unprecedented level of corrupting

cash, the political system has disconnected itself from the body politic. The

result is not so much an election process as it is a burlesque. Last year, as

part of the build up for his presidential run, Bush’s handlers arranged a speech

from a stage festooned with flags and ceremonial banners. In a pitch to

politically significant Latino voters, one of the banners proclaimed "Juntos

Podemos"-Together We Can. But the Houston Chronicle reported it as Juntos

Pedemos-We Fart Together. For many Americans, that’s a fair summation of what

today’s political system delivers.

"I

won’t vote," Manuel Gonzalez told the New York Times. A superintendent in

the Bronx, Manuel speaks for the multitudes when he says, "Doesn’t count

anyway-the politicians do what they like. It’s not a people’s country. It’s a

money country." Tragically for America, Manuel is right. He can vote for

BushGoreBradleyMcCain and nothing in his life will change.

What

kind of "election" is it that does not address, much less treat, the

needs and aspirations of the millions and millions of Manuels who, after all,

are America? What kind of democracy is it that can be perfectly satisfied, even

glad, that Manuel won’t vote? Indeed, despite there being an open presidential

seat, despite the control of Congress being up for grabs, despite this being the

first election of the third millennium-more Americans watched the Super Bowl

than will show up for November’s national balloting. We’re staring at an

electoral train wreck in the making, with the likelihood that fewer than half of

the country’s voters will be motivated to bother, and with the live possibility

that this year will produce a lower national turnout than the scintillating

Clinton-Dole matchup of ’96 (third lowest in history).

   

The

noted political theorist, Dan Quayle, has commented on the phenomenon of the

disappearing voter: "A low voter turnout is an indication of fewer people

going to the polls". Thank you, Professor Quayle. Unfortunately, he’s not

that much more whacked out than the rest of the establishment, which continues

to stiff America’s workaday majority economically and politically, yet blithely

thinks there will be no price to pay. But our country’s history is one of

rebellion, often explosive, by people who are shut out of the system. If today’s

shut-out majority is not to turn ugly, a new politics has to be forged that

opens a broad new channel so these good people have a real say in the way things

are being run and being shaped for the future. Ordinary folks have to matter

again.

 

 

 

Leave a comment