James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Monday, March 10, 2008

Piece 2: Facing harsh reality

The real question is not who among the present trio of preowned candidates will make the better president, but can the American electoral system be restored in time to revive the country's Constitution-based form of government before it is permanently replaced by corporate rule?

The step to permanent rule by the corporate elite and very rich is a very short one from where we now stand. It would take a very long leap to get us back to (mostly) honest elections decided by a (mostly) reasonably informed public which would choose leaders who would (mostly) serve the public rather than the few people with big money.

A week before the March 4 primaries in Texas and Ohio -– the little states don't count for much -– I was lying abed, thinking about those two states and Florida and some of the other southern and western states, such as Tennessee, where “funny business” is the electoral norm.

Let me ask the assembly: Does anyone here automatically assume, do you believe without overmuch doubt, that all (or any) election results reported by officials in Texas and Ohio honestly and accurately reflect the votes cast by the citizens of those states –- or votes that would have been cast by voters had substantial numbers not been deliberately prevented from reaching polling places?

How about from Florida and the other deep South states? How about southwestern states? How about the areas of California –- San Diego comes to mind -– where in recent elections local officials brazenly diddled the system in order to have the votes reflect the preferences of the far right?

Just before the results started coming in March 4, I asked one of the smartest, most sharply analytical people I know whether she would assume the results were honest. She blinked, was caught unaware. But with ten seconds of thought she answered with a simple “No,” as though the answer was self-evident, as, indeed, it is.

It is a given that in several places in this country, reported election results frequently reflect the desires of the people who control the polls, the voting machines and often the cops, rather than the votes actually cast or that would-be voters wanted to cast.

Congress has made it unmistakably clear that it will not move toward genuine reform of the badly broken election system, let alone toward campaign finance reform.

The far right, the Bush crowd, have taken away all hope that we can look to the judicial system for relief from the criminals who steal elections.

Their Supreme Court put George W. Bush into the White House, though he lost the 2000 election. Democrats didn't even put up a fight when the 2004 presidential election was stolen in Ohio; perhaps they decided there was no hope, maybe they were just gutless, as usual. A court dominated by right wingers allowed the outrageous gerrymandering of Texas congressional districts under a plan devised by the under-indictment but never-brought-to-trial Tom DeLay.

So. Big-money crooks win, public loses.

And that's only one aspect of the terrible bind we're in. Think about the other pieces of the equation in a functioning democracy: Those who hold office are chosen by an informed public that has real choices among candidates, at least some of whom are in the race for the sake of public service.

On one of my brief, necessary outings during recent sickness, I noticed a beat-up old car just ahead of me. It had two bumper stickers on the back: “Kerry” and “Hillary.”

That seemed to me a good metaphor for the state of politics as we have come to know them in recent decades. Someone who obviously isn't doing well financially backs candidates who, if they don't stumble their way to election losses, will do little or nothing to bring real relief to increasingly abused lower and middle classes.

It speaks to the elements of candidate quality and an informed electorate:

First, the quality of candidates, and who owns them.

Kerry was weak, so afraid of offending the money people and various constituencies, fictional and real, that he would not stand up on any issue, or even defend himself against outrageous lies until it was far too late.

Hillary Clinton is aggressively a creature of the corporations, eager to cooperate in sending American jobs abroad, despite the utterly false campaign rhetoric against NAFTA et al. Her health care program, for another example, is designed to give the appearance of helping the public while in reality the central goal is protection of corporate profits in the face of public demand for reform. It puts a fine suit on Frankenstein's monster.

Nobody knows what Obama is for sure, but you don't hear him offering Rooseveltian solutions to our terrible problems. “Change” is not a program. Going along with the false claim that there is “no political will” for genuine health care reform, or economic reform is playing by the rules set out by the Democratic National Committee and it's high-buck paymasters.

John McCain, who maybe once had courage and some intelligence, bends and whips under the corporate and right-wing religious winds even while he talks about being “steadfast” in his beliefs, which have changed so frequently and drastically that no one can identify them. After all those years of being outspokenly against torture, he has even flipped on that for the sake of the White House endorsement and perhaps some other endorsements.

Second, the American public is horrendously ill-informed, astonishingly ignorant. To a considerable extent, much of the public has fostered its own ignorance, allowing for deterioration of our educational system, pursuing money, careers and, especially, entertainment to the exclusion of the kinds of interests and activities that bring information and wisdom.

A very large percentage of the population, having been bombarded by corporate and Republican propaganda for decades, now believes the mantra: Taxes bad, government bad, “free enterprise” good, corporate profits good." That's the depth of public analysis.

On a still more shallow level, the public finally –- finally -– has become aware because of the undeniable economic woes of the middle class (who cares about the poor?) that it's been reamed, but good. But most people have no idea what happened or how, and a whole lot of them have been easily conned into believing it's all the fault of Hispanic immigrants, or some other “other.” And some, of course, believe the tax cuts weren't big enough.

A lot of wishful, wistful Democrats recently have been spouting a line, probably originated within the Democratic Party organization, about how “we have two wonderful candidates.”

Sorry, but we, the American public, are left with two demonstrably lousy candidates and one whose value is uncertain but highly doubtful.

That is true in large measure because the other essential element to producing an informed public –- a functioning news system –- scarcely exists. It's only remnants are found in very small-circulation magazines and Internet newsletters, which most people ignore in favor of computer games and absurdly miscategorized "reality" shows.

The average “journalist” of the 2000s is a shallow, cliché-spouting, crowd-following and basically silly person who intellectually is better suited to retail sales than reporting.

Wolf Blitzer as a heavyweight anchor and moderator of so-called presidential debates? Walter Cronkite must wish for oblivion. Chet Huntley must weep in his grave.

Think back a bit on the campaign:

The Democrats began the long, long presidential campaign season with a crowd of candidates, two of whom –- Dennis Kucinich and Bill Richardson -– are genuinely intelligent, honest and brave individuals who understand and were eager to speak about the enormous problems of this country.

But the news people didn't have cozy personal relationships with those guys and, anyway, decided they weren't in the game and so flatly denied them an opportunity to be heard. It may be simply that the right wingers who control most of the media didn't want them to be heard, but the dummies they employ also didn't understand the issues and so shut them out.

(Is there a 50-page, big-type volume out there entitled “Reporting for Dummies?” There must be.)

The Republicans also began with quite a crowd. Television and newspapers gave us verbose daily reports on who had the “momentum.” It was an awesomely stupid and useless exercise. Remember the weeks in which Rudy Giuliani had all the momentum? What does that amount to now?

Remember the panting, almost sexual worship of lethargic old actor Fred Thompson? Where's Fred now? Looking for walk-ons in soap operas?

And let us not overlook the constant television bleating and “analyses” of the party “bases,” and what they want, what they believe, who they're backing, who they might back.

What's a base?

According to the pretend news people, the Republican base consists of conservative (read right wing) evangelical, mostly southern, Christians. (As television personality Bill Maher said recently, “forget 'base,' I prefer to call them by their earlier name: morons.”) That base gets mentioned much less now than it did a couple of months ago because (shhhhh), it absolutely hates John McCain, but John McCain is the Republican nominee anyway and one by one the right-wing preachers are falling in line.

According to the same inane reportorial sheep, the Democrat base consists of a relatively small number of extreme left wingers who keep making outrageous demands for things like reform of the American health care system, and regulation of the kinds of businesses that brought us the mortgage market meltdown, and protection of what's left of the physical environment. But if that's true, how is it and why is it that the corporate-kissing Democratic Party elite has completely ignored that “base” since Jimmy Carter was in office?

And what's the story from our brilliant press this week? Well, Hillary said they had treated her unfairly, and just to prove her wrong, all of the television types and almost all newspapers began gratuitous Obama bashing. That'll show her, that'll show us.

Given George the Impaler's veto of an intelligence bill his generals and admirals thought was just fine because the bill forbade several types of torture -– George believes in torture and he refuses to allow Congress a voice in government -– what will Congress do?

More hearings on the use of steroids in baseball, probably, and the news outfits will cover the hell out of them.

A quite knowledgeable but, in my estimation, rather naïve peace and political activist told me several days ago that I should let up on the unrelenting gloom and reporting of bad news –- though I barely touch the surface of the daily avalanche of bad news from Washington and elsewhere –- and devote some time to talking about the good things happening.

OK: Tell me you've written angry, informed letters to your members of Congress, to the White House, to Democratic Party officials, to your state legislators and sent them via the U.S. Postal Service. Tell me you're writing at least one letter a week to each of at least two newspapers or magazines. Tell me you'll be on the streets at every rally for peace in the next several months. I'll happily report that as good news.

Tell me 45 percent of the American public have the good sense to go to the polls in November and cast a write-in ballot for president. If you can show that to be true, I'll dance and shout Whoopee. In the meantime, you can't deal with problems you refuse to recognize.


Almost daily, in some newspaper, there appears a letter to the editor stating that a much shorter period of campaigning for public office would much better serve the public. People would focus more clearly, candidates would have to state their positions clearly in order to be understood in a short time, and campaigns would be much less expensive.

Those are exactly the reasons we won't see shorter campaigns -- are likely to see them grow longer yet, in fact. Mainly, those who have enormous wealth can control the system as it exists; they can go on spending huge sums even as we, the general public, are tapped out after making our one-time $100 or $25 contributions. More unpleasant reality.