The Four Year Farce

“Methinks the Democrat doth protest too much”

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

Israel and Palestine

Trade and Globalization

Civil Rights, Human Rights 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 get it?

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.

February, 2004

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.