Welcome to McFascism: Over 300 million disenfranchised US voters since 1988
Robert Bridge is an American writer and journalist. He is the author of 'Midnight in the American Empire,' How Corporations and Their Political Servants are Destroying the American Dream. @Robert_Bridge
Most Americans have never heard about the dirtiest secret on Capitol Hill: The Democrat and Republican parties have achieved an iron grip on the reins of power, obstructing any third-party contenders from challenging their authority. This is more of a literal statement than many realize. Third-party ‘factions’ are being denied participation in the presidential debates in order to protect the Establishment's cozy and very lucrative relationship with corporate power.
How this state of affairs came about is nothing short of astonishing - and not a little treacherous.
America’s bloodless coup d’état of 1987
A funny thing happened on the road to the 1988 presidential campaign between Republican George H.W. Bush and his Democrat challenger Michael Dukakis. Representatives from both campaign camps secretly hatched a "memorandum of understanding" - which was more of a ransom letter - designed to overhaul the rules of the political road.
The new changes put forward by the establishment would determine which candidates could participate in the presidential debates (namely the Democrats and Republicans), which media organizations could attend (only those that could be trusted) and who would serve as debate panelists (thereby controlling the questions).
There was just one problem with this rare display of bipartisan camaraderie on the part of the Democrats and Republicans: the function of setting down the rules and regulations of the presidential debates (surprise!) was not and never meant to be the job of the political contenders. Since 1976, the sole responsibility of organizing the debates had been relegated to the League of Women Voters. And until 1987, they were doing a great job – probably too well.
So imagine the wrath, the very feminine fury, the ladies felt as they were duly delivered a list of demands by the Democrats and Republicans as to how the debates would be organized in the future. Although it would have been one hell of a spectacle had the League put their heels down and declared the elections suspended until the Asses and Elephants backed off, sadly that did not happen. Instead, the ladies politely spewed some harmless venom at the ponderous predators before excusing themselves altogether from the sanitized, dumbed down political reality show.
— LWV of the US (@LWV) May 28, 2015
League President Nancy M. Neuman issued a powerful farewell statement that should have rattled the US electorate to the very bone: "The League of Women Voters is withdrawing its sponsorship of the presidential debate scheduled for mid-October because the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter."
Neuman continued with a degree of candor not commonly found in the halls of power these days. She urged Bush and Dukakis to "rise above your handlers and agree to join us in presenting the fair and full discussion the American public expects of a League of Women Voters debate.
"The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public."
Connie Rice, a civil rights lawyer and commentator on National Public Radio, said the Democrats and Republicans “hijacked” the debates.
American consumers responded with a collective shrug and a yawn as it switched to the shopping channel with its remote - the last shred of control it seems to enjoy these days.
Since any silence from the electorate is immediately interpreted by politicians as consent, what followed was the hideous transformation of the US political system, now plagued by a disturbing level of nepotism and elitism. Suffice it to say that US babbling heads are still breathlessly wondering whether yet another Bush or Clinton will inherit the throne on Pennsylvania Avenue.
So after the League of Women Voters politely excused themselves from participating in the game of thrones, a brand new organization rose up from the cigarette butts, deflated balloons and empty beer cups. Today, US presidential debates are owned lock, stock and barrel by an officious, priggish gang of Beltway thugs that unabashedly calls itself the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), a nonprofit corporation that funds the debates through private contributions from foundations and corporations.
— Global Trade Watch (@PCGTW) May 26, 2015
George Farah, author of the book, “No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates,” explained the obvious rationale behind Washington’s desire to seize control of the debate process.
“It seized control of the presidential debates precisely because the League was independent, precisely because this women’s organization had the guts to stand up to the candidates that the major-party candidates had nominated,” Farah said.
On February 19, 1987, the New York Times ran an obituary of sorts regarding the bloodless coup d’état, touting the new organization that would waltz over the corpse of the League. In that article, Paul G. Kirk Jr., the Democratic national chairman, and Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., the Republican national chairman, happily agreed that the new arrangement would ''institutionalize'' the debates and strengthen the role of the political parties in the electoral process.
That’s right folks, strengthening the role of the two political parties in the electoral process is exactly what America’s Founders would have wanted since limiting the playing field to exactly two power-snorting junkies has everything to do with the spirit of Democracy.
Kirk Jr. underscored the situation regarding America’s newly-razed political landscape, saying he personally believed the CPD “should exclude third-party candidates from the debates.”
Ralph Nader, politician and social activist, argued that the CPD had created a virtual two-party dictatorship in the ‘land of the free.’
“The two parties created the debate commission. It’s a private company. And they have set the rules,” Nader told the Center for Public Integrity. “So if they shut you out of the national presidential debates, there is no way…of reaching people — just no way. So it’s a two-party elected dictatorship.”
Nader has certainly not been the only victim of the CPD death grip on the US political system. In the 1996 elections, Republican Bob Dole and President Bill Clinton, with the connivance of the CPD, had managed to keep billionaire Ross Perot out of the debates, even though a huge number of voters (18 percent) said they wanted the self-made billionaire’s opinions heard.
Corporate McFascists destroying the America Dream
The US Capitol is presently under siege by an army of corporate lobbyists, armed to the teeth with unlimited funds to lure legislators away from their primary obligation, which is representing American citizens, not corporate interests.
Jesse Ventura, the former governor of Minnesota, once offered his recommendations for fixing the US political system when he advised – only half-jokingly - that any politician running for office should be required to wear a NASCAR racing suit – complete with the decals of their corporate sponsors - so the American people will know “who’s bought them.”
Ventura’s joke contained more truth than anybody on Capitol Hill is willing to admit.
Never before in American history (or any history, for that matter) has money spoken louder among the so-called representatives of the people. And since the mega-corporations have most of the money, it is the corporations that are getting the lion’s share of political representation. This is not the way things were supposed to work.
The US Supreme Court deserves a healthy part of the blame for America’s political meltdown. In 2010, the Supreme Court opened the floodgates on corporate campaign spending in Citizens United vs. FEC (2010). This devastating ruling allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts of cash - much of it courtesy of consumer spending, incidentally – in Democratic and Republican campaign coffers without the benefit of public transparency.
— Susan Maylone (@SusanMaylone) May 29, 2015
The New York Times decried the Citizens ruling in an editorial: "The Supreme Court has handed lobbyists a new weapon. A lobbyist can now tell any elected official: if you vote wrong, my company, labor union or interest group will spend unlimited sums explicitly advertising against your re-election."
Citizen United led to the rise of so-called Super PACS, independent action committees that are empowered to raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions and individuals (some readers may be tempted to argue that the inclusion of labor unions among Super PACS would work to balance the political scales; this is patently false because unions now represent less than eight percent of the US workforce – down from about 36 percent in the 1970s).
The PACS then spend their vast sums of money secretly advocating for or against political candidates. This is what the brave new world of American politics refers to as the ‘freedom of speech.’
As of January 19, 2015, 1,291 Super PACs reported total receipts of $688,826,115 and total independent expenditures of $344,172,141 in the 2014 campaign cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Most disturbing, Super PACS receive their vast funding from just a handful of insanely wealthy donors, which points to the dangerous narrowing of the American political franchise. Yet what government commission could/would smash this monopoly?
Trevor Potter, a former FEC chairman, summed up the situation when he said that corporations have just one reason for throwing their support behind a particular party or candidate, and that is to “maximize their profits,” he told the Atlantic.
It remains highly doubtful that America’s experiment in democracy can succeed much longer based on such mercantile considerations.
The problem is that what America is coming close to inheriting is nothing short of fascism, albeit a fuzzy form of fascism unique in world history.
Is America approaching Fascism?
Of course, what we now have in the United States is not (yet) comparable to a Mussolini-style of fascism, complete with a megalomaniac inciting the masses from a bully pulpit and jackboot black shirts throttling dissenters on the street. Or have we become so saturated and dumbed-down by the sugar-coated reality of American life, the “air-conditioned nightmare” of unlimited consumer choice and hardcore commercialism, that we are no longer able to perceive the death of democracy in our midst?
For a country that offers its hapless consumers 1,000 brands of everything from automobiles to breakfast cereals to fast food franchises, isn’t it odd that the choice that really matters – political choice – has gone missing from America’s shelves?
— Patrick M (@andendall) May 29, 2015
This ridiculous paucity of choice, where the last two political parties are showing remarkable similarities (not least of all as to their corporate paymasters), threatens to open the door to the worst possible scenarios in the world of politics: The dirty ‘F’ word.
The historian Alan Ryan once set forth the standard features of fascism, which included “mass mobilization through a political party that held a monopoly of power, the cult of leadership, the destruction of all intermediate and nonstate organizations, such as trade unions, and their replacement by politicized parodies, the abolition of privacy so that the family provided no safe haven against the state, and the replacement of the rule of law by arbitrary violence and a regime based on terror.”
Nothing remotely in common with America, circa 2015, you say? Well, it’s only necessary to consider the two-party political charade in Washington, the death of nonstate players such as the trade unions, the privacy-destroying PATRIOT ACT, and the militarization of our local and state police forces, that comes not only with the equipment but the military tactics and mindset to boot.
Meanwhile...at the same time that Corporate America is stuffing the campaign war chests of US politicians, guaranteeing their servile complaisance down the road, American CEOs are awarding themselves outrageous salaries at the expense of everybody else. Where is all of this extra cash coming from that allows corporations to flood the political system and their own pockets?
Thomas Piketty, author of the best-selling book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, gave some clue when he revealed that around two-thirds of the increase in US income inequality over the last four decades can be attributed to a massive rise in “super salaries” among America’s top executives.
— Lori Wallach (@WallachLori) May 27, 2015
In 1960, the top 10 percent of wage earners in the US accounted for 33.5 percent of all income, according to data in Piketty’s book. By 2010, however, that share had exploded to 47.9 percent. Meanwhile, Congress has shown no willingness to increase the tax rate on the super-wealthy anytime soon, not help labor unions get back on their feet.
Separately, the above phenomenon might be cause for alarm. Taken together, however, and they could herald in a very dark period for the American empire.
Noam Chomsky, the social critic and intellectual, suggested as much in 2010 with some rather shocking comments.
“I’m just old enough to have heard a number of Hitler’s speeches on the radio,” he was quoted by the Progressive as saying. “I have a memory of the texture and the tone of the cheering mobs, and I have the dread sense of the dark clouds of fascism gathering” here at home.
“The level of anger and fear is like nothing I can compare in my lifetime,” he said.
Before the American experiment in democracy turns into a bad laboratory accident, it would be wise to consider such dire warnings and move to bring average Americans - and third party contenders - back into the American political franchise
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.