As you may know, I am completely ignoring the US election campaigns, at least as much as I possibly can. What little seeps through my filter, either from our daily newspaper or from headlines at Progressive Bloggers and Common Dreams, really disturbs me.
Too many people - people who ought to know better - are putting too much stock in Barack Obama. The man is a good candidate and a gifted orator, but he is not going to fix what ails the United States. Any man or woman who would propose to fix what's wrong with the United States could not possibly get elected, or get nominated, or even be taken seriously as a candidate.
Progressive people's reactions to Obama remind me of exactly how I felt in 1992.
After twelve years of Reagan and Bush, a man from a humble background, with great charisma and a silver tongue, wowed the Democrats. It may be hard to remember the Bill Clinton of 1992, given what we came to know of him, but people wept at the Democratic National Convention that year. A Man From Hope was riding into town, and don't stop thinking about tomorrow.
I was hopeful, too. I didn't think of myself as naive (who ever does?), but I had cut my activist teeth during the Reagan years, and I was very focused on removing that stink from Washington. After the election, friends of mine from my reproductive rights group - mostly ten years older than me - were relieved, but not impressed. I remember a friend saying, Sure, I'm glad Bush is out of a job. I just don't expect things to change very much.
She was right.
The minute Clinton took office, he betrayed the left. First it was Haitian refugees, then it was gays in the military, then the courts needed "balance" instead of "ideology". (No matter that the courts had had nothing but ideology for 12 years, and counter-ideology would have brought some balance.) And on it went. This was not because Bill Clinton couldn't be trusted to keep his promises. It was because the Democrats are not so very different from the Republicans. The two parties differ mainly in rhetoric. In actions, they differ very little.
Four years later, I voted for Ralph Nader. Katha Pollitt wrote a piece that became famous: "Why I'm Not Voting for Clinton". I circulated as widely as I could.
For me it was an epiphany moment. I was raised in a very progressive household. My parents voted for the Democrat candidate furthest left in the primaries, then in the general election, it was "hold your nose and vote Democrat, because anything else is throwing your vote away". I believed that, and I followed suit.
Bill Clinton's first term changed my mind. That was the end of my belief in voting for the lesser of two evils, the end of contributing to the Democrats' rightward drift, however unintentionally. From now on the Democrats were going to have to earn my vote, and if they didn't, I was going to help build an alternative on the left.
You can imagine how I bristle when partisan Liberals in Canada call for the NDP to merge with the Liberals. One only need look at the US's dysfunctional two-party system to see what would happen. Without the NDP, what reason would the Liberals have to even be liberal?
I have no wish to debate the relative merits of voting for a third-party candidate: you go your way and I'll go mine. Regardless of whether you would vote for them or not, the Democrats will not possibly fix the system that they themselves help to create and maintain every single day. Has everyone forgotten the 2006 midterm elections? The Democrats won a majority in Congress with a strong mandate to get out of Iraq. And?
The problems are structural. Barack Obama is not going to break the incestuous relationship between government and corporate money. He is not going to restructure campaign financing, or institute a fair tax system, or force US employers to deal fairly with their workers, or fix the education system. He is not going to bring universal health insurance. He is not even going to end the US occupation of Iraq.
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And will he be allowed to win?
Here's another brief history reminder. During the Democratic primaries in 2000, everyone was talking about how important the nomination was, because whoever the Democrats ran would soon be President. After all, the Republicans were running George W. Bush. What a joke! He couldn't possibly be elected.
Today there's that same assumption, only people are even more excited, because we will soon supposedly see the first person of colour in the White House.
The 2000 election was stolen.
The 2004 election was stolen.
There were huge questions about the validity of both the 2002 and 2006 midterm elections.
And nothing has changed. As all problems left untended will, it has only gotten worse. There is evidence voting machines were tampered with in the primaries.
So why is everyone assuming the 2008 election will be fair? I'm still not convinced there will even be a 2008 election in the US. I'm not making a prediction; I'm not in that line of work. But let's put it this way: if the election goes ahead as it's supposed to, I'll be relieved. If it doesn't, I won't be surprised.
But if it's more expedient for the Cheney junta to hold elections, but keep them rigged, then they will.
(Regarding election fraud, please don't get hung up on any one link I've posted here. No one story is definitive; each is part of a much larger picture. As always, I recommend Harvey Wasserman and Bob Fitrakis, and Bev Harris' Black Box Voting, as excellent sources. You can also click on the "election fraud" category on this blog for more links.)
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Recently I overheard two Canadians chatting about the US campaigns. One of them brought up McCain. The other said, "McCain won't win, but not because of him. Just because people are so fed-up with Bush, they don't want to elect another government like that."
The other person replied, "I know. What I can't believe is that they elected him twice!"
Inside, I was screaming, "They didn't! They didn't!" It's very frustrating.
I know millions of Americans did actually vote for the Resident, and I'm not forgetting or excusing them.
Nor am I excusing the media's complicity in this: thoroughly trashing two consecutive Democrat candidates while giving the Republicans a free ride.
All that happened, and it's real.
But the bottom line is: the elections are rigged. Everyone - not just the mainstream media, but a huge portion of the blogosphere and the alternative media, too - is reacting to the campaigns as if these elections are for real.
They are not.