Illusion of democracy: If US elections could change anything they wouldn't be held

Neil Clark
Neil Clark is a journalist, writer, broadcaster and blogger. He has written for many newspapers and magazines in the UK and other countries including The Guardian, Morning Star, Daily and Sunday Express, Mail on Sunday, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, The Spectator, The Week, and The American Conservative. He is a regular pundit on RT and has also appeared on BBC TV and radio, Sky News, Press TV and the Voice of Russia. He is the co-founder of the Campaign For Public Ownership @PublicOwnership. His award winning blog can be found at www.neilclark66.blogspot.com. He tweets on politics and world affairs @NeilClark66
Illusion of democracy: If US elections could change anything they wouldn't be held
Last week's US midterm elections received saturated media coverage. Why? The reality is that elections in the US don't change much, if anything, because America has a regime and is not a genuine democracy.

The US midterms – and you'd have to have been locked in a wardrobe all week to have avoided hearing about them – reminded me of a great song by the 1980s indie-rock band The Smiths. No, not 'This Charming Man', in reference to Donald Trump, but 'What Difference Does it Make?' Remember that one? It should be played on a loop every time America goes to vote.

Because every couple of years, whenever 'big' elections come along in the US of A, we are treated to the same spectacle. Ordinarily intelligent people making fools of themselves in the belief that the elections are 'tremendously important'. When will they ever learn that the best thing to do on a US election night is to go to bed early with a nice hot water bottle and a good book.

Let's take presidential contests first.

In 1992, Bill Clinton was hailed as 'the president for the people' after 12 years of Republicans in the White House. Bill deregulated the financial sector and Wall Street enjoyed a bonanza. In 200,0 George W. Bush was billed as 'the president who wouldn't meddle', after Clinton had bombed Yugoslavia, Iraq and Sudan. Bush then invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. His successor Barack Obama was going to stop the wars – and was even awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He bombed Libya and helped set fire to Syria. The 'reset' in relations with Russia ended with Russia being sanctioned. The closure of Guantanamo Bay never happened. See the pattern? Then in 2016 Donald Trump was going to be 'the president who drained the swamp'. But he's appointed swamp dwellers to his inner circle. He was also going to stop bombing countries and rebuild relations with Russia. Well, he's carried on bombing and US-Russian relations are at an all-time low. The president who was going to tell the neocons where to go in no uncertain terms has told them 'Join my team, partners – let's do Iran!'

I was one of those who, very naively, believed two years ago that Trump would be preferable to Hillary Clinton, due to her record of warmongering. The sad truth is that it made no difference. On the campaign trail Trump repeatedly referred to his opponent as 'Crooked Hillary' and promised that if he won, Clinton would be investigated by a special prosecutor. However, on getting elected he said "I don't want to hurt them (the Clintons). They're good people." He's made fresh calls since then, but can anyone see Clinton ever being prosecuted?

It's hard to escape the conclusion it was all a charade, like everything else connected with American politics. The rich people who attack each other in public for the benefit of the voters all know each other and their families are all friends. They attend the same weddings.

English writer G.K. Chesterton got it right when he said: "When the Founding Fathers talked about democracy they did indeed mean, doubtless, the government of the people, by the people, for the people. But they meant the government of the people they knew, by the people they knew, for the people they knew."

The midterms again saw people invest enormous emotional energy on trying to 'stop Trump' – as if he was an aberration – instead of being just a typical US President (albeit with different hair coloring), increasing profits for Wall Street and threatening other countries who don't pay Danegeld to the Empire. Yes, we do need to stop Trump, but we can only do that if we understand that The Donald is not the root cause of the problem. The utterly corrupt American political system is.

The Democrats, the other, slightly more 'liberal' half of the 'Permanent War Party', are an integral part of that system. They were hailed last week as 'saviours of democracy' for capturing the House. But on the issues that really matter there'll be no major change.

Because if things could be changed in a significant way via elections in the US then they simply would not be held. Elections serve a valuable function in that they give the public the illusion of democracy. They're a safety valve which stop people marching on Capitol Hill with torches and pitchforks, crying 'Enough is Enough!' They keep people compliant.

Political power lies not with the voters, but with the powerful lobby groups who 'buy' elected representatives, who then act in their interests, and not the people's. It's not those we see at election time who really call the shots, but those we don't. Those hidden behind the curtain. Those who write the cheques.

That's why whoever wins we'll never get any meaningful gun control, no matter how many mass shootings take place. It's why neither the Democrats nor the Republicans will introduce an American National Health Service. Why the power of Wall Street and finance capital won't be curbed. And why in foreign policy, presidents and Congress will always do the bidding of the military-industrial complex and Israel. It is absolutely revealing that the US' only real 'breach' with Israel in recent decades came in December 2016, when the Obama administration did not veto an anti-settlements UN resolution. Obama had just literally days left in the White House.

Identity politics enhances the 'democratic' charade. We're all meant to be terribly excited by the fact that a record number of women have been elected to the House.

Of course sexual equality is a good thing, but the crucial question is: Will these new women in Congress mean the US following different policies? Don't forget two of the worst and most pro-war US Secretaries of State in recent years have been women, namely Madeline Albright and Hillary Clinton.

The color of legislators and their sexual orientation is another great diversion. What did America's first black president do for Afro-Americans?

What did Obama do for Africa – save bomb Libya, the country with the highest Human Development Index in the whole of the continent, back to the Stone Age.

When I see claims that '#First indicates change is coming', I am automatically reminded of that classic line from the Italian historical novel Il Gattopardo (The Leopard): "Se vogliamo che tutto rimanga come è, bisogna che tutto cambi," meaning "if we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change."

Some are trying hard to convince us that the Democrats have 'moved to the left'. Don't believe it. Licensed radicals are needed to keep genuine radicals onboard. Those behind the curtain know that. But they'll never let the licensed radicals succeed.

By playing the Tweedledum/Tweedledee 'Republicans are better than Democrats/Democrats are better than Republicans' game we are helping to maintain the status quo. Only when we break out of the existing Establishment-constructed paradigm and acknowledge that the US has a de facto one-party system, will there be any prospect of moving forward towards real democracy. To make that happen we need to keep singing The Smiths, every first Tuesday in every second November. So, what difference does it make? It makes none. 

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