Rachel Yehuda, among many excellent points in her talk with Krista Tippett, asked a very good question: who would you rather have with you in a war zone, an experienced fighter or a cultured philosopher who has never faced a murderous enemy? This question was answered “fighter” by many Jews after the Hitler regime, determined never again to be quiet victims of mass violence. Being eternally tough and ready to kill can lead to overkill, certainly, but it is an understandable enough answer when the question is survival when an entire army is determined to kill you.
In my quiet life I may feel pacifism is the best option in human affairs, and mildness the best choice when dealing with others, but I would certainly not feel that way faced with an army of murderers intent on killing me and everyone I love. I’d want an experienced killer next to me to show me how to kill the motherfuckers who were after us.
I was thinking of the same thing in regard to electoral politics and influencing public policy in the USA. Would you rather have millions marching in the street in protest of evil done in our names, or legislators strategically placed in state houses and Congress to vote in blocks to pass actual laws and give the official nod to secret horrors?
A few years back, a movement of right wing zealots, funded generously by billionaires, formed a “grass roots” organization called the Tea Party. This rag-tag army of staunchly conservative patriots got tremendous publicity and, with a shit-ton of money, managed to move the Republican party even farther to the right. They made the party more extremist by “primarying” moderate Republicans out of office. The Koch brothers and their ilk looked on approvingly, funding the campaigns of these radical reactionaries, sponsoring this group of servile champions of the already powerful, making the current crop of Republican legislators move to the right or lose their jobs. Once in office these Tea Party true believers literally held the government hostage, at one point even shutting it down by refusing to fund government programs at a budget deadline. That’s how you make policy, if you are a ruthless motherfucker intent on changing the world to reflect your worldview, and have the monetary clout, and organization, to do it.
It turns out not to be a matter of right and wrong, who rules, even in a democracy. The fiction is that our elected representatives act on our behalf. In the real world of winners and losers they act on behalf of those who pay for their campaigns and keep them in office. It is not much of a choice on election day, in most cases. It’s Lewis Black’s two bowls of shit and you’ve got to pick one.
Might makes right in the Darwinian jungle of electoral politics. If your party controls Congress you can tell a popular sitting president who won in a landslide to shut the fuck up. You can simply deny him his constitutional right to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, nothing he can do about it. You can do everything but outright call him a nigger, even though you’re free to insist he’s a lying Kenyan Muslim and an illegitimate president and doesn’t mean shit. That’s the power of organized lobbying and the leverage a loud-mouthed celebrity can exert if he is given a big enough public platform via the mass media.
A stage full of Republican hopefuls in a presidential debate– not one can admit outright that humans evolved from apes, or that the climate is changing in dangerous ways, or that human activities, driven by unchecked greed, are destroying the planet. That’s the co-opted Jesus and fossil fuel lobbies, respectively. The Democratic party is not quite as bad, but it is also an incorrigibly corrupt machine oiled by the money of those legally created psychopaths, corporate “persons”, and their human counterparts who expect their will to be done. Both parties serve their masters in a society based on the bottom line, and in this case, anyway, the customer is truly, always right.
The bottom line here — was the Bernie Sanders campaign a one shot novum, never seen before in America and never to be seen again? Or could a candidate with principles and a convincing analysis of why there is so much poverty, misery, desperation and rage in our wealthy nation, funded by small donors (Obama bragged of the same kind of support, but took the bulk of his money from corporations and wealthy folks and opted out of the campaign finance law designed to limit the influence of these forces, and outspent his opponent two to one — and he, uh, ruled accordingly) actually win an election that was not otherwise rigged?
On one side, a slickly marketed, relentlessly publicized, opportunistic demagogue, saying whatever was necessary to keep angry people enraged, greedy people salivating about all the luxurious things they could buy with their even greater wealth, on the other side someone actually analyzing the legitimate causes for rage, despair, the logical consequences of heedless greed, our nation’s greediest protected by laws they bought and paid for.
The second candidate never even made it on to the ballot, since his opponent in the primary was supremely qualified, wealthy, politically connected, corporately funded, anointed next in line and the party had an immense thumb on the electoral scales before the primary even started.
All I can say is “motherfuckers”. Makes me want to run for office, but without at least one cocksucking billionaire to fund me (not to mention politically inconvenient skeletons cavorting in my closet, and right here, openly, in the room behind me as I type), I may as well try to start a successful non-profit organization to help poor kids prove they are not disposable pieces of shit. In the greatest, most exceptional nation the world has ever seen.