Friday, 3 August 2012

Debased suffrage

There’s a lot of garment-rending in the news lately about attempts at ‘voter suppression’, meaning the Republican tricks designed to keep blacks and Hispanics away from the polls through things like picture-ID requirements and other modern versions of the poll tax. Oh my, really? We’re just now discovering attempts to deny victory to the majority?

Earth to base: during a certain presidential election in recent memory, the ENTIRE COUNTRY’S vote was hijacked, and no one did diddly about it because our capital-D Democratic leaders did not think electoral theft of the presidency was worthy of a mass movement to protest and reform the system.

This supine collaboration in one’s own defeat has long been a mystery to me until I realized that it’s a feature, not a bug. When popular discontent against things like the rule of the plutocrats balloons, the Democratic poobahs rush to put themselves in charge of it. (I am reminded of an activist guy I knew years ago who was so personally prickly and difficult that he could never work in an organizational setting but immediately ran to the head of whatever march was put together by others to try to take charge of it.) But their ‘leadership’ does not stimulate or maximize the movement’s energy and potential as much as divert and deflate it, and the pattern is so consistent that it cannot be an accident.

Obama’s campaign itself is an easy example: the country was on the verge of revolt at the mismanagement, plunder, stupidity and moral bankruptcy of the Bush years, including the criminal wars, the looting by the bankster class, and the all-round indifference to the commonweal. Obama stood at the head of a vigorous, spontaneous outpouring of political engagement, led by youth. I witnessed it from the inside and can announce—not that it’s a secret—that those energies were tapped, then shunted aside. We got little pats on the head and were told that the adults would now handle things. Go home. Attempts to maintain the Obama mobilization itself as an active force dissipated as everything was folded into the existing party apparatus.

Just imagine, as a thought experiment, what would have happened if the 2000 Bush-Gore election results had been reversed, with Bush the winner of a popular vote plurality and Gore made president through the arcane workings of the Electoral College. The Tea Party would have been born a decade earlier, and we would still be hearing about the Great Larceny of the presidency by the pointy-headed liberal elites. Add a Democratic-sympathetic Supreme Court to this political sci-fi, and the permanent outrage would be ionospheric. Furthermore, the accompanying narrative would be rather persuasive: a corrupt system stole our votes. Who could argue that it had not happened?

Instead, who today even remembers the scandal of 12 years ago? And the successful purloining performed then is now spawning its evil children in the form of voter-roll purges and other anti-democratic schemes. Democrats pretend to be concerned, but as junior partners in the one-percenter duopoly, they’re shamefully complicit and willing to settle for crumbs tossed by the big guys’ spoils, all in exchange for keeping us carefully boxed into their fantasy ‘opposition’.

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