What’s particularly nervy — galling, really — about the idea that the US ought to be spreading our democratic system across the globe is the fact that we don’t have anything close to democracy in this country. Nor do we have what the Founders intended to create: a republic, where the power of the state is limited by the Constitution. This is underscored every time Americans go to the polls, where they are confronted with “choices” determined by lawmakers whose chief interest in life is getting reelected with as little opposition as possible. These guardians of the polity have made it virtually impossible for so-called third parties — i.e. parties not controlled by corporate interests and foreign lobbyists — to even get on the ballot.
And if you don’t like this state of affairs, and take action, the State will smack you right in the face. Take the case of Richard Winger, the third party expert and political analyst, editor of Ballot Access News, who, together with other interested parties, sued the state of California so that all candidates would have an equal right to show their party label on the ballot. With the passage of an “open primary” law, which effectively abolished third parties, California’s third party candidates couldn’t even identify themselves on the ballot. The lawsuit failed, however, and the judge ruled that the plaintiffs had to pay the court costs of the big corporate moneybags who had sponsored the “open primary” legislation to being with. Winger and his fellow third partiers got a bill for $243,279.50.
Isn’t “democracy” wonderful?
Well, no, it isn’t, not the current American version, which merely serves to legitimize — in a “legal” sense, at any rate — what is in reality an oligarchy. As this election season dramatized once again, the differences between the two state-subsidized state-privileged “parties” is chiefly rhetorical: this came through loud and clear during the Obama/Romney foreign policy “debate,” but it’s true on domestic issues as well. The bipartisan consensus is clear: maintain the Welfare-Warfare State pretty much as it has existed since the New Deal, with allowances made for trimming around the edges here and there. No matter who wins this election, the victor will have to impose a program of “austerity,” i.e. burdening the lower and middle classes with new taxes and program cuts, while granting new opportunities for corruption and cronyism to the political class and the oligarchs, foreign as well as domestic.
Libertarians are not small-‘d’ democrats: we don’t believe in the efficacy or legitimacy of the system — but we don’t (or shouldn’t) disdain it. For this is the one concession an otherwise authoritarian-minded political class must make in order to continue their system of “legalized” thievery and mass murder. They must ask, if only symbolically, for the consent of the governed — what Ayn Rand called “the sanction of the victim.”
But we don’t have to be victims: we can utilize this chink in the armor of the State to drive a stake through its rotten heart — because any and all weapons in the battle for liberty must be in our arsenal. Yet we also should have no illusions: everyone saw how the GOP leadership, in league with the Romneyites, stole a good half of Ron Paul’s delegates to the national convention. It was such a brazen display of thievery that the Republican governor of Maine — where arguably the most egregious rip-off took place — refused to attend the Tampa coronation.
And it isn’t just about the Paulians. Every dissident tendency in the country has been silenced by repressive ballot access laws which give the oligarchic parties ample “legal” ammunition to keep outsiders off the ballot. Previously, Democratic party lawyers practically followed Ralph Nader around the country as he tried to attain ballot status, suing to keep him off as soon as he qualified and all too often succeeding. The Republicans targeted Gary Johnson in the same way this year. A more disgusting display of “legal” repression” has never even occurred in such bastions of “democratic” authoritarianism as Belarus and Putin’s Russia. Indeed, it is easier for a political party to attain national ballot status in Russia today than it is for the Libertarian party or the Green party to get on the ballot in, say, Pennsylvania.
Congressional districts are so gerrymandered into shapes which give the incumbent a job for life that we might as well make the office appointive, or even hereditary. That way, the American political class can confer on itself all the titled magnificence and glitz of its model and progenitor: the British aristocracy.
In the face of a steady assault of election spending legislation attempting to limit contributions, and requiring all kinds of “disclosure” — conceivably subjecting donors to official retribution — the near invincibility of incumbency is a fact of American political life in much of the country.
The War Party has two wings: the Democrats and the Republicans. All others are outsiders, whose ability to storm the gates is “legally” restricted by a nearly impassable series of bureaucratic obstacles designed to keep them out while still maintaining the “democratic” illusion, i.e. the phony two-party system, which is in reality a single entity.
It is a delicate operation, in the course of which the political class must walk a fine line between repression and allowing some degree of free expression. This year how that line is drawn, and who draws it, is going to make a big difference — and perhaps a decisive one.
There’s nothing like an election to show up the essential fraudulence of the democratic system, particularly how it’s practiced in America. Nothing makes this point clearer than the Republican voter suppression campaign, which is designed to keep African-Americans, Latinos, and others from voting. Aside from the ugly racial implications of this deplorable effort, one can kind of see the Republicans’ point: after all, with a candidate so widely and intensely disliked, even by his own supporters, what else can they try? Asking people for all kinds of identification at the polls, and putting partisan zealots on guard asking people to identify themselves, is straight out hooliganism. Did you think the Romneyites were above that?
As I write, we don’t know who will win this presidential election, but I made my prediction long ago and I’m sticking to it. I even half-seriously averred that, by nominating a complete nonentity, the Republicans were deliberately throwing the election. Romney’s candidacy postponed the ideological blood feud that’s going to break out when he goes down to a well-earned defeat, but the Karl Rove/Fox News grand poobahs of the GOP can’t delay it indefinitely. Just add the Ron Paul vote to the Republican column, the day after the President declares victory, and see what you come up with. Most of Paul’s voters stayed home on election day, or else voted for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian standard-bearer this time around.
And that, I predict, will make all the difference.
When the President spoke of voting as “revenge” the other day, the wimpish girlish Republicans immediately started up a chorus of whining — one reason why they’re such losers, and why they deserve to lose. Yet I was heartened to hear Obama say it, not only because revenge is such a major (albeit unacknowledged) factor in politics, but because it’s particularly appropriate this election year, and even more so from my own ideological perspective. Because what we’ll see, this Election Day, might justifiably be called Ron Paul’s revenge, and, as Ralph Cramden would put it:
“How sweet it is!”
Okay, I’m posting this on Election Day, before the results are in: tune in here for an update after we know who won, and by how much, to see me either exult in the sheer accuracy of my prophecy, or else eat crow.
Update: It’s 8:13 pm PST, and the President has been reelected. Once again, the neocons have dragged the GOP down to defeat. Netanyahu placed his bet on the wrong horse. In spite of soaring unemployment, a collapsing economy, and widespread disenchantment with the incumbent, the Republicans still managed to lose.
Conservatives will claim it’s because Romney stood for nothing — and that’s true in terms of domestic policy. He reversed himself on every major domestic issue, from health care to abortion and tax policy. But on foreign policy he did stand for something: a huge increase in the military budget in spite of our looming bankruptcy, unconditional support for Israel on each and every issue, and war with Iran. This was the main dividing line between the Ron Paulians and the Romneyites, and the main reason why no endorsement from Paul (the elder) was forthcoming. Given the closeness of the election in several key states, particularly Ohio — the state that put the President over the top — support from Paul’s voters would have made the difference. Ron got over 113,000 votes there in the GOP primary.
And that made all the difference.