Dwindling Democracy and the 2008 Presidential Campaign
The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it's profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, pull back the curtains, and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater - (Frank Zappa)
Well good friends and readers of Scene 4, another election season rapidly descends upon us. The Iowa caucuses are scheduled for January 3rd with the New Hampshire primary soon to follow. As if anybody gave a tinker's damn. But evidently a few politicos, talking heads, impassioned partisans and die hard activists still cling to our broken system of "electing" a candidate and the illusion of freedom and democracy. Campaign finance reform was supposed to bring transparency and accountability to the way our elections are held, but alas it has produced more of the same chicanery and shenanigans there have always been. Loopholes in the campaign finance law have produced what are called "bundlers" who bundle campaign contributions from various sources and dole them out to meet the letter of the law if not its intent. Perhaps the best reform would be to roll back laws that limit what individuals, political action committees, and corporations contribute to the various candidates. If Bill Gates, Rupert Murdock, Warren Buffett, or XYZ corporation want to give ten million dollars to a particular campaign, let them. Just let us know about it so we can make an informed decision as to whether we want to vote for a candidate who is the beneficiary of that largess.
Another troubling aspect of modern day presidential campaigns is the cadre of advisors, pollsters, and assorted hangers on who stage manage candidates and tell them what to think and say. There is nary an unscripted moment, nothing left to chance for fear of any blunder finding its way to YouTube. Candidates continue to stonewall and evade the tough questions if they are even asked. Congressman Dennis Kucinich was asked at a recent "debate" if he had seen a UFO. Of course he's seen a UFO. Have you ever looked at the man? He's been abducted by one too.
And we for the most part let the plethora of talk radio hosts tell us what to think and say. These hosts: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levine just to name a few; rival the power and prestige of our "elected" senators and congressmen. In fact their opinions and characterizations of important legislation can often make or break it. Anyone who doesn't agree with them of course is derided as a lib, commie, Stalinist, or worse. Levine's act is comprised of berating callers who hold contrarian views as "big dopes". He refers to The New York Times and The Washington Post respectively as The New York Slime and The Washington Compost; Illinois senator Richard Durbin as "Little Dick" Durbin. Yea...ha, ha, ha. What a shame the level of our political discourse has sunk to this woeful level of grade school name calling. And to think Levine used to work in the Justice department. Scary, just plain scary. The us versus them mentality might make good talk radio but it's destroying the opportunity for dialogue and common purpose to tackle the hard issues of our day. When we turn on our fellow Americans regardless of their political beliefs and call them the enemy, it's a sad day indeed. It's no wonder that in a bit of revisionist history, Joe McCarthy has been resurrected as a great American freedom fighter. He may have had a little too much to drink, but hey he really rooted out those commies didn't he? And when they're not paying homage to McCarthy, these unelected policy makers are cheerleading the war from the safety of their luxurious studios.
Some have welcomed the candidacy of former Tennessee senator and actor Fred Thompson hoping that he would shake things up. Fresh off the set of Law and Order, Thompson filled in for the 135 year old radio icon Paul Harvey (ok so he's not 135 but he's got to be at least 120) earlier in the year. Growing weary of that job, Fred decided to tackle an easier one: running for president. But so far, Fred has failed to energize his base: talentless, uninspired, boring, slow talking actors. Count me as one of his base. Believe it or not another Law and Order alum has made intimations that he might run for president. Actor Michael Moriarty describes himself as a "centrist" and a "realist". But from reading his writings, I guess the meanings of centrist and realist have changed to mean right wing and pretty pissed off.
If Hillary Clinton manages to win her party's nomination for president, it means that in every presidential election since 1980, a Bush or a Clinton has been on the November ballot. What is one to think when the members of two families out of a population of over 300 million Americans wind up on a national ticket time and time again. Some call it democracy, I call it something else. Perhaps the one event that discouraged and disheartened the last of the true believers was the 2000 Presidential election. Playing by Marquess of Queensbury rules and possessing an obvious inferior legal team, Al Gore allowed George Bush to abscond with the election with help from the Supreme Court. It became clear that international election monitors that we routinely endorse for other countries experiencing electoral difficulties should be stationed in this country. Imagine that, international election monitors for the United States of America - the foremost purveyor of liberty, democracy, freedom, and justice in the world.
And since our system of electing a president works so well here, other countries try to emulate us. Our Brand Is Crisis is a documentary which details the devastating effects of an American style campaign waged by Bolivian candidates for that country's presidency in 2002. In his recent bestseller, The Secret History of the American Empire, author John Perkins provides many first hand accounts of US involvement all over the globe to thwart democratic movements that threaten corporate interests. Here at home, civil liberties are being trampled underfoot all in the name of "security".
With the exception of Ron Paul, Mike Gravel, or a possible independent campaign by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, no one remains to challenge the status quo. And unfortunately, these guys don't have a ghost of a chance of winning. So my friends, to borrow a line from doomed cult leader Jim Jones, can we make it (cyanide laced koolaid) taste less bitter? Perhaps we can with a healthy dose of humor. Are there any jokesters, jesters, and tricksters running for president in 2008? Sure there are. Send in the clowns!
Stephen Colbert - Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert of the Colbert Report has recently attempted to place his name on the South Carolina ballot as a Republican and Democrat. In a bit of life imitating art (Man of the Year - 2006 Robin Williams flick), Colbert would bring "truthiness" to the campaign trail. Of course comics running for the highest office in the land is nothing new, trailblazer Pat Paulsen first ran for president in 1968.
Lyndon Larouche- Ok, so Larouche is not a comic but he's always good for a few laughs. This perpetual candidate for President has inspired comedy writers from Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, and Futurerama just to name a few shows. At one time or another during his political life he has been a Marxist, socialist, and an ultra right wing conservative. He has even run for political office while in prison while serving a sentence for mail fraud and tax code violations. Larouche normally runs as a Democrat (who says the Democratic party doesn't have a big tent?). He has written mind boggling articles with the titles, "Why Poetry must begin to Supersede Mathematics in Physics", and "Secrets Known Only To The Inner Elites". Now 85, Mr. Larouche may not have another campaign left in him. We can only hope so, for the comedy value if nothing else.
Al Goldstein - Yes that Al Goldstein, the porn publisher of Screw Magazine. His campaign website boasts, "Everyone knows politics is a dirty business. Who better to run than a veteran of an even dirtier business". Al might flip you the middle finger, but he won't flip flop on the issues.
HRM Caesar St. Augustine De Buonaparte Emperor and Megally Megally - I don't know who these clowns are but they're running for President. With names like that they've got to be funny.
So my friends, in conclusion I am beginning to see the brick wall at the back of the theater that Mr. Zappa so aptly described. But I'm still laughing...for now anyway.