The Four Year Farce
“Methinks the Democrat doth protest too
By Matt Siegfried
Every four years we suffer through a farce of a national election. The
current caucuses and primaries to determine the candidates of the two (though
Bush is unopposed) perennial parties in the United States have long ceased to be
places of democratic selection. These primaries have become institutionalized
venues to discard candidates of an independent base (like Dean) or ideas
contrary to the party leaderships’ (like Kucinich and Sharpton) and the business
interests that back them.
This is done through a partnership with the media where candidates are
divided, at every opportunity, between “serious” candidates and “issue”
candidates. By this they mean that candidates with “issues” do not seek to win
themselves, but that they wish the serious candidates to take on their issues.
By “serious” candidates they mean those that have proven their allegiance to the
policies of the ruling elite of their respective party. It is not the candidate
that is serious, but the party bureaucracy that is serious about the candidate.
Ideas are secondary to who the party leadership thinks can win. Those who the
party thinks can win are determined not by their ability to mobilize and expand
their constituency, but by abandoning their constituency in an appeal to the “undecided,”
“middle America” and the “centrist majority” (read white, well paid
workers and the white middle class). It is testimony to the remarkable lack of
difference between the two parties that the folks in the so-called middle are so
readily appealed to by either party.
The Occupation of Iraq and the War on Terrorism
- The leading candidates are enthusiastic supporters of the unending
on Terrorism.” They supported the invasion and continued occupation of
Afghanistan and support the “right” to use force of prevention (semantically
different from “preemption”) against future “terrorist attacks.”
- The leading Democratic candidates voted for the Patriot Act and its
equally draconian successors. Though some have expressed concerns after the
fact, they are directly complicit in the erosion of civil rights.
- The leading Democrats saw intelligence with Bush on Iraq and voted for
the war. They are directly complicit in the deaths of tens of thousands of
Iraqis, Americans and others. All based on the lie of Weapons of Mass
- All candidates would like the United Nations to give cover to America by
shifting the responsibility from the US. The political reconstruction of
Iraq would fall to the UN while keeping, indeed expanding, the illegal
occupation forces and economic penetration of Iraq by the United States. No
genuinely anti-occupation nominee is possible from the patriotic swindlers
of the two parties.
- The biggest complaint is not the war itself, but that the Bush
administration was so inept in diplomacy that they couldn’t convince other
countries to join, and give cover, to the criminal American assault on Iraq.
Thus making the US look bad and making further adventures more
Israel and Palestine
- The Democrats have been more stable supporters of Israel than the
Republicans have. Kerry has waxed poetic over Israel as the only democracy
in the Middle East where “the interests of Israel are the interests of the
United States.” If by that he means that they are both interested in
crushing Palestinian resistance and thwarting Arab self-determination than
he is correct. On this, though for different reason, the two parties are in
- Whoever is elected billions will continue to flow to Israel while they
engage in a protracted genocide. Humanity, collectively wringing its hands,
wishes for “peace.”
Trade and Globalization
- There is no difference between the two parties in their majorities. The
right of the republicans, representing certain agricultural sectors favors
nationalist protectionism. The “left” of the Democratic Party representing the
labor bueracracy and certain small businesses favors…. nationalist
protectionism. Both parties in their majority support NAFTA, the FTAA, GATT
and neo-liberalism in its myriad of forms and institutions.
- Both parties have refused to repeal the reactionary anti-union
Taft-Hartley Act. In the name of “Anybody But Bush” the AFL-CIO has endorsed
John Kerry: vociferous champion of NAFTA, the FTAA and neo-liberal “free
trade” that have decimated the very unions supporting him. Truly, labor needs
its own voice, its own party.
Civil Rights, Human Rights the Environment
- Both parties oppose gay marriage, a fundamental right of equality. Bush
will use the issue to gay bash, energizing his evangelical base. The
Democratic establishment will not support full rights or marriage but will
find meaningless phrases of tolerance to deflect criticisms of their own gay
- Black people, in their majority, have historically voted for Democrats.
The deserved reputation of the Republicans for open racism and the lack of a
viable working class or community based alternative has allowed the Democrats
to do absolutely nothing for black folks, taking their support entirely for
granted. The profound respect they show the African American community can be
summed up as: “Hey, it could be worse!”
- There is a clear difference between the two parties over the right to an
abortion, which must weigh heavily on all of us. Though the Democrats, through
devolving the issue to states, attacking welfare and medical coverage have
done enormous damage to the ability of women to control their own bodies. This
is an essential right of women’s equality and emancipation. Any return to the
days before legality would be an enormous retreat for women in this country,
as for all those opposed to the moralism of priests combined with the fist of
the law. But right without access is meaningless and for this universal,
socialized health care is necessary to ensure all women have access to health
care. No candidate, of course, proposes that.
- The differences on the environment are not fundamental. A dramatic change
in the way we produce, distribute and consume goods is required to even come
to grips with the scale of the environmental crisis. The “solutions” offered
by both parties ensure further environmental degradation. A real ecological
plan is utterly at odds with the “free market.” Environmental sustainability,
necessarily planned, cooperative and long term is incompatible with
capitalism’s extremely shortsighted anarchic drive for profit. At their best,
both parties seek to rely on “market forces” to protect the environment (!).
Never was a genuine alternative to the politics of the status quo so needed.
Layoffs and war, health care for profit, racial injustice, and the anti-women,
anti-gay assaults are not the property of a single party. The mad dash to the
bottom of the social ladder in the name of “free trade” is systematically
destroying the living standards of a whole layer of American workers.
America is now a country where 98% of all incumbent politicians are
reelected, most unopposed. Our elections turn out and rates of return would make
most despots blush.
The history of struggles around these and other issues of importance to
workers and women, gays, African Americans, Latinos and other minorities proves
that rights were never won or secured through elections alone. By ceding the
struggle to those who do not share our commitments we settle for their
commitments. Is it really better to vote for what you do not want and to
Those of us in the United States who are serious about beating the Bush
agenda should recognize that the surest, not the quickest, not the easiest, but
the surest way is to build an independent political movement. One that comprises
the emerging and growing social movements with at its base a deep and lasting
social and political force; the American working class in all its diversity,
potential militancy and democratic traditions. A political party that identifies
with and has as its base the working class majority of this country is not just
a desire of many leftists, but an essential tool in the organization of the
working class in it’s own interests. How this will come about is for the future
to decide. It is for us to decide now to continue that process
Whoever seeks to administer a system of exploitation and war does not seek to
fundamentally alter that system. The real question is; can we build an
alternative to that system? Can we put aside secondary difference and unite
around the urgent needs of our time: against war, support of workers
organization, for social health care, against racism, for women and gays and
opposition to an economic system whose logic is profit, not human need.
We are in real need of a genuine democracy, one practiced from the ground up
with economic democracy at its core. Socialism is routinely dismissed in the
most ardent terms by the hacks of both parties and beyond time. Socialism, the
democratic, planned and free association of those who produce the wealth the
capitalists horde and the politicians throw away on illegal wars, has for 150
years and more, continued to be a solution that has and can capture the
imagination of our and successive generations.
Matt Siegfried is a trade unionist living in Ypsilanti, Michigan. An anti-war
activist and troublemaker, he writes occasionally for the Irish journal Fourthwrite,
as well as other
reputable voices of dissent and revolt.