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The Great American Election Charade


Ernest Partridge
The Crisis Papers.

January 15, 2008


In the United States of America, the public selects the candidates of each of the two parties. Several candidates of these parties offer themselves to the citizens of a number of states, the free US press presents the policy positions of the candidates to the public, and the free broadcast media conduct debates in which the issues are openly discussed. Then the states hold primaries and caucuses, in which delegates are chosen by the voters, whereupon the delegates choose the parties’ nominees at open national party conventions.

And little George Washington really did chop down his daddy’s cherry tree.

The more the American public is persuaded to believe this pleasant myth of the “free and open election process,” the longer that public will believe that each new Chief Executive is the legitimate "people's choice."  And that persisting public belief suits the powers that be in the military-industrial-corporate-media complex (MICMC) just fine.

In fact, the United States is one of the few two-party nations in which one party gets to choose both its own candidate, and also the candidate of the “opposing” party.

Well, OK, I exaggerate. But it’s not much of a stretch to say that the GOP, with the help of its wholly-owned subsidiary, the mainstream media, has routinely exercised veto power over the Democratic Party’s potentially strong opponents:  Ed Muskie and the “Canuck letter” in 1972, Howard Dean and the infamous “scream” in 2004, and apparently, once again, John Edwards and his “anger,” devisiveness, and $400 haircuts.

(As numerous polls have disclosed, John Edwards is potentially the strongest Democratic candidate against the Republicans, and Hillary Clinton is the weakest. Yet Edwards, who finished second in the Iowa caucuses, has vanished from the pages of the mainstream media, from the columns of the punditocracy, and even from the press conferences of The Democratic Leadership Council – the Republican wing of the Democratic party).

Following the conventions, the mainstream media rolls out the heavy artillery, and lays down its quadrennial barrage on the Democrats: Dukakis and Willie Horton, Clinton and “Whitewater,” Gore’s “invention” of the internet and “discovery” of Love Canal, Kerry and the “Swift Boat Veterans.” Meanwhile, the GOP candidates are pelted with marshmallows: “compassionate conservatism,” “uniter, not a divider,” while the candidate’s shady past is kept in a secure lock box: the National Guard AWOL, Harken and Arbusto and insider trading, DUIs and drug busts.

I am not suggesting that the voters have no significant role to play in the US elections, just that for the past fifty years or so, this role is much smaller than most American citizens dare believe. Even so, the citizens’ voice in the selection of its leader is potentially formidable, and even decisive, and this mere possibility has the poobahs of the establishment MICMC terrified.

The founders called decisive citizen involvement in public decision-making, governing “with the consent of the governed.” Lincoln called it “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”  Tom Donahue, the President of the US Chamber of Commerce calls it “populism,” and has resolved that the CoC will spend as much cash as it may take to stamp it out.

That effort just might bankrupt the super-affluent Chamber of Commerce, for the fact of the matter is the American public is now as mad as hell and not going to take it any more. More significant, perhaps, than the candidates’ totals in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary are the numbers of citizens participating in these contests: approximately twice as many Democrats as Republicans, and an extraordinarily large proportion of them are young people.

At long last, more and more ordinary Americans are getting the message that they have been lied to, that they can no longer trust the mainstream media, that their public treasury has been looted, that their children’s and grandchildren’s future has been mortgaged, and that they are living under the darkening shadow of despotism.

Still the establishment MICMC rolls on in its arguably pre-determined course, “populism” and the public be damned. Matt Taibbi on Bill Maher’s “Real Time” last Friday summed it up perfectly:

The [campaign] theme for awhile was that the voters were sick and tired of being told by the media who was going to be their nominee. But it seems to have come full circle now, and it looks like we may end up getting the same people we were going to get in the first place: [McCain and Clinton]....

Seventy percent of the country wants to withdraw from Iraq, and we get two pro-war candidates. If that doesn’t tell you how f****d-up the system is, I don’t know what does.

So we are now at a crossroads.  Here, for what it's worth, are two scenarios: To the right, we get McCain vs. Clinton and more of the same, whoever wins.  If these are the candidates, Hillary will get a media pounding that will make the Swift Boats seem like a luxury cruise.  The GOP will nominate McCain and a “smart Bush” –  maybe Giuliani or even (God forbid!) Cheney – for Veep. The GOP/MSM noise machine will bring the McCain poll numbers upward toward 45%, which is close enough for Diebold, et. al, to do the rest. McCain, age 72, will win and after a year or two, retire “for health reasons.” Bush’s “enabling acts” will still be in place, and ...  – the rest is too horrible to contemplate.

To the left, the public demand for change becomes irresistible. Edwards is nominated, or perhaps Obama with a populist enthusiasm not clearly evident today. A populist/Democratic tsunami overwhelms the black-box voting machines, a Democrat moves into the White House, and the Democrats take substantial control of Congress. By then, the Bush depression may be upon us, opening the door to substantial social, economic and political reform.

The latter scenario can not happen without a massive outpouring of public anger and demand for substantial change. If that anger is contained, we remain on a rightward course. If it breaks loose and the Bastille falls, all bets are off. It's in the hands of we the people.

Hold on tight: it’s going to be a rough ride ahead!


Copyright 2008 by Ernest Partridge


Ernest Partridge's Internet Publications

Conscience of a Progressive:  A book in progress. 

Partridge's Scholarly Publications. (The Online Gadfly)


Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers".   His e-mail is: gadfly@igc.org .


Crisis Papers editors, Partridge & Weiner, are available for public speaking appearances