Since the American people, in their infinite wisdom, have decided to postpone for at least a month or two, the final decision on which two crooks we get to choose from in November, I think a few comments are in order.
First, our wonderful Democratic prospects. If you want a summary, just look at the war in Iraq:
Hillary Clinton supported the war in 2003, and still thinks it was a good idea. So good in fact that she’s itching for action against Iran, backing a bill labeling that country’s military a ‘terrorist organization.’ We’ve seen this movie before.
The alternative? Barack Obama. A man who will explain how he opposed the war from the start and believes we should leave. By 2010. Assuming the conditions are right. And by ‘leave’ he means there’d still be up to 50,000 troops there. Amazing how flexible the definition of ‘anti-war’ is, isn’t it?
Admittedly, neither of these fine folks quite measures up to John McCain whose proposal for a 100-year occupation suggests that aggressive militarism and near-senility is perhaps not the best combination for our next ‘Commander-in-Chief’
Still, there is something strange about this game of ‘let’s pretend’ that the media has been conducting around the Democratic primary contest. Barack Obama is not the second coming of Jesus Christ (or if he is, that suggests nothing much positive about Christ). He’s got a good biography, and he gives a decent speech. That’s it. Hillary Clinton is no more manipulative and calculating than most of her senate colleagues. Both in the end are establishment candidates – a fact that their fundraising attests to. Both offer the possibility of competent but not transformative administrations. Nothing more.
In the end, neither Clinton nor Obama sees anything fundamentally wrong with the current state of affairs. Obama wants nicer rhetoric (technically, ‘a less divisive politics’). Clinton wants a few nicer laws (healthcare, etc.). Laudable goals, all. But something is missing.
Well… For seven years, we’ve been ruled by a gang of thugs who have repeatedly insisted that they are above the law. And they’ve been proven right. Key provisions of the US Constitution are trampled upon. Rules are ignored. Treaties violated. Century-old precedents upended. Much of the federal government today operate as a rogue organization whose secret activities lie solely under the watch and control of one man.
At a time when anybody, even an American citizen, can be locked up indefinitely on the say so of the president, we need a candidate who will say: “Enough!” We need a candidate who remembers that government exists to serve its citizens, not to be served by them. We need a candidate who understands that secrecy and democracy are incompatible, that government operating in a constant state of emergency is anathema, and that freedom is more than a slick slogan to be trotted out on national holidays and at campaign rallies: it is a lived reality that cannot survive in a fear-ridden police-state where a few hold near-absolute power.
Of course, we need other things too. A candidate who recognizes the twin threats of economic and environmental catastrophe. A candidate willing to tackle the deep inequities rampant in society today. A candidate who sees poor education and concentrated power for what they are – the sure enemies of stable democracy.
To be sure, one can’t have everything. Most of the disastrous changes of the last seven years were prefigured by actions under earlier presidents. The concentration of presidential power has been a long process, spanning decades if not centuries. Advances in technology have only made new mechanisms of surveillance and control cheaper and easier to implement. If the Bush administration have done one good thing, it is to demonstrate precisely where our current path leads.
Against this backdrop, the current presidential contest is an obscene joke, a pathetic mockery of the idea of democratic self-government. While Rome burns, these would-be Neros quarrel over where the next palace is to be built, and how many gladiators will be needed for the next spectacle. We’re presented the exciting choice between those who see no flames, and those who wish to add fuel to the fire: between the dangerously incompetent and the simply dangerous.
There is of course a simpler alternate explanation: the candidates know their true constituents (contributors) and don’t really give a damn about what happens to the rest of us, so long as their bottom line stays in the black. Certainly, a good chunk of the political establishment does a nice business lining its pockets.
To be clear, I don’t expect anybody to emerge who offers to deal meaningfully with any of these issues. The political system isn’t designed to produce such candidates. Come November, I’ll probably vote resignedly for the lesser evil, and hope thing don’t get too much worse, too fast. But I’ll also remember the bastards who lead us down this road to perdition, and if the opportunity arises, I’ll be happy to slip them a knife in the ribs should the opportunity arise (metaphorically speaking of course – political criminals deserve long slow humiliation and punishment – nothing quick or mostly painless).
And that, hopefully, is all that need be said on the topics of politics. Back to more rewarding pursuits…