By Myles Hoenig 

The ins and outs of American elections

October 14, 2020 - 14:8

The first words to come out of most mouths regarding the first debate were 'shocking,' 'disturbing,' 'demoralizing,' 'frightening' and so many other hyperboles. But if it wasn't for the fact that this was one of the traditional ways to elect a president with the most powerful military in the world, one could almost see the humor in the debate. Two septuagenarians acting like kindergarten children fighting over a snack, especially when one is the U.S. president, just has to make one laugh at the absurdity of it all. 

Although Biden had his zingers in and interrupted Trump on many occasions, the Oscars for the most pathetic performance has to go to Donald Trump. We knew this would be a brawl. We knew that the president is crude, a bully, and unwilling to follow the rules. But he made up for any doubt that night.

Trump's most frightening line was when he spoke directly to the white supremacist terrorist group The Proud Boys and said, 'stand back and stand by.' That was as loud a call for Nazi-like intimidation of voters, especially urban and people of color, that has ever been seen or heard of from a president.  There are always memorable lines in a debate, and usually well-rehearsed. President Reagan won with 'There you go again.' President George HW Bush had 'Read my lips. No new taxes.' President Ford emphasized how Poland was not under the control of the Soviet Union. Both Biden and Trump had theirs, too. Biden said what everyone in President Trump's presence would like to say, but usually too frightened to say so. "Will you shut up, man?" For that to be said to the president on national TV is unprecedented.  However, Trump's most frightening line was when he spoke directly to the white supremacist terrorist group The Proud Boys and said, 'stand back and stand by.' That was as loud a call for Nazi-like intimidation of voters, especially urban and people of color, that has ever been seen or heard of from a president. Nearly 24 hours later, he has not walked back on what he said, and the Proud Boys now have Trump's words on their logo.

It now costs hundreds of millions of dollars to run a successful federal campaign or state-wide campaigns. And in all these winning cases, similar amounts of money are spent by the losers. The only way to garner that much money is to be reaching out to large corporations or single billionaires, which obviously is their way of buying influence to promote their own legislation that serves their own interests. 

A Princeton/Northwestern University study has concluded that we are not a democracy but an oligarchy; the rich and powerful elite sets the agenda for Congress and the White House. They claim that 30% of all ideas that become law are not based on public opinion. An issue with 100% approval has as much a chance as one with 0%. Their argument is that those that contribute to Congress members have a far greater role in seeing that legislation happens. To quote the study, 'The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy." There will be times that the people's voice may equal that of the wealthy on some issue, but it's the elite that pushes the legislation.

The case of Citizens United opened the floodgates of money having such an enormous control over Congress when the Supreme Court ruled that corporate money is equal to freedom of speech, thus very minimal limits on how money and moneyed interests can buy elections.

The powerful and wealthy elite do not just buy Congress and the White House. They own our media as well. Now only six conglomerates control most of the broadcast media in the U.S. CBS Corporation, Comcast, Time Warner, 21st Century Fox, Viacom, and The Walt Disney Company.

These conglomerates rely on advertising as a major source of income and in elections networks like CNN, owned by Time Warner, or Fox, owned by its namesake, only promote the candidates that serve their financial interests and will pillory anyone countering their interests, as they targeted Bernie Sanders both in 2016 and 2020. The fact that we do not have viable third parties is because the Green Party, in particular, is eco-socialist and directly opposes the economic interests of the giants for their reliance on fossil fuels, nuclear power, and military hardware. You rarely ever heard of NBC, once owned by General Electric, the maker of nuclear power plants, regularly report on nuclear power's dangers, for example.

Turnout in U.S. elections is low because almost a majority of eligible voters don't see a reason to vote. It's actually quite that simple, and many who are eligible don't for the same reason. Millions of people were out in the streets opposing the War in Iraq, but Congress authorized it, and it was promoted by both parties. For someone to run for president, they need to be mindful of who controls the media, for it is the media that controls the campaign message. Of course, there are anomalies as we see how far Sanders got both times before the Democratic Party, a servant of the large corporations, pulled the plug on his campaigns.

Minor parties have limited success in U.S. elections because of voter suppression, voter shaming, and the two parties control all the mechanisms of elections in the country. One method of giving such parties more of a say is through the process of Ranked Choice Voting, as it is being carried out in the state of Maine for this national election and in a number of other cities and municipalities. A voter can vote for their preferred candidate or party but also have a second or even at times, a third choice. If their primary choice candidate, or party, does not reach a certain threshold, their number two choice moves up and is counted. But this is strongly opposed by both parties, especially the Democrats, as it would show a very large percent of the population not supporting them, just not enough to beat them in a one-on-one election. And when a large percent is supported, that mass of voters can grow and show others that the two-party system is not monolithic. 

Another reason is obviously the media's role, which has a vested interest in only promoting the two parties and ignoring challengers. Bernie Sanders would not have been a blip on their radar if it wasn't for the fact that he ran as a Democrat. If he ran as a Democratic Socialist, he would have been pretty much ignored, until a groundswell of support for him materialized. Then they would likely have found a way to sabotage the campaign and re-direct his voters to either the Democratic Party or to stay at home. 

The Republicans also have their political opponents on their side, and that would be the Libertarians. They are economically very conservative, as they believe in a laissez-faire economy but are strong on progressive social issues and oppose military adventurism and American imperialism, a bit of a hybrid party. There are also Libertarians in Congress, namely Sen. Ron Paul, but he is registered as a Republican like Sanders is as a Democrat. They both are not alone with their respective positions, but only represented by the two behemoths.

Turnout in U.S. elections is low because almost a majority of eligible voters don't see a reason to vote. It's actually quite that simple, and many who are eligible don't for the same reason. Millions of people were out in the streets opposing the War in Iraq, but Congress authorized it, and it was promoted by both parties. More than half of all Americans, close to 80+% of Democrats, support Medicare for All, especially now during a pandemic, but it will never happen, as both Joe Biden and previously Hillary Clinton, both Democratic nominees for president, had vowed. The tax laws are written for the very wealthy and the corporations, as half of all Congress members are millionaires. Our city schools are suffering because, by law, funding is based on the community's income, not on equality. And the police continue to have bi-partisan support, even though they are, as an institution, the greatest threat to our civil society, especially if one is a person of color. Voting gets us nowhere, and as Emma Goldman, the illustrious anarchist of the early 20th century, said, "If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal." Others have been quoted as saying that as well.

There are also practical reasons why voting is not so widespread. Federal elections are held on Tuesdays, and not as a federal holiday. With tactics targeting voter suppression, long lines at the polls, or many polling places closed, people are discouraged from voting. Such elections are held in November when the weather can be a major factor regarding turnout, including getting dark early. Rules for voter registration are not standardized nationally, and there is often a lot of confusion as to who can vote and in which polling place. As to registration, federal and state laws are written so that many felons cannot vote. This particularly targets black voters as blacks are often the target in legislation that encourages incarceration, a very profitable industry.

Campaigns for president usually start two years out, and often 4. The Primary system lasts from January to the conventions in the summer. The American people are inundated with campaign rhetoric to the point of nausea and systems overload. And so often, the winner is pre-selected by the party machinery, and in places that are one-party controlled, those in the opposite party have no incentive to vote, even for their own candidates. And as mentioned previously, third party voices are routinely and effectively suppressed.

Comments

  • 2020-10-18 16:19
    So called American election is no more than a joke and a gambit no one should pay any attention to or worse give it some kind of credibly a mafia run system can never have it.

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