Wednesday, August 6, 2008

As Capitalism Stumbles Economically, It Furthers Its Grip on the Election Process

I have written before on the subject of Capitalism currently undergoing its first major "face-lift" since the Great Depression of the 1930s. If that subject interests you, feel feel to browse through my blog archives.

Capitalism--although the ideologues who defend it despite its obvious short-comings like to call it "Market" economies--is the economic system under which the United States operates.

Representative Democracy is the political system of the country.

Having observed rather closely this season's presidential contest, primary and general, I cannot help reach the conclusion that, just like the economy, the political system as outlined by the Founders of the Nation is beginning to give off that stench associated with antiquated ideas, designed in much simpler, much less ramified times.

The political election system, designed in the 18th Century by brilliant men who managed simultaneously to be both gloriously idealistic and ruthlessly pragmatic, is groaning and squeaking under the relentless, hegemonic stress applied to EVERYTHING by the capitalist business model as the ideal vehicle for achieving goals. The goals (the Content)are nearly irrelevant; it's the Form of achieving those goals that has attained primacy.

Thus we have Britney and Paris and Moses; we have the eerie truth that "staying on message" is vastly more important than the "message" itself. That people, like Clinton's Mark Penn, are considered geniuses by uttering remarks like, "small is the new big." Short, seemingly pithy, but actually vacuous, non-language has usurped the space that not long ago--maybe a couple of decades--was occupied by serious discussions between candidates on serious issues, discussions that forced the voting public to take a breath and think.

Perhaps back then the politicians were as contemptuous of the average Joe and Jane as they are now, and were only doing a better job of concealing it. But at least their words, their public discourse, indicated that they were addressing sentient beings. No more.

The contempt the overt mockery of the process, especially on the Republican side, but also exemplified by the Clinton Democratic primary campaign, is no longer kept in the closet or behind closed doors. The snide cynicism required of the advertising guy proves just as effective in electing a president as it does in selling Bud Lite. It's efficacious, damn it...and how does one argue with that brutal, unalterable fact?

The answer is one can't. If not playing by the rules that produce victories in the System means candidate A is almost surely going to lose, what is s/he to do? Commit suicide with honor?

Just as deregulating the oil futures trading market in 2006 transformed what was up until then a market almost exclusively inhabited by people actually in the oil business making rational decisions based on sound economic theory combined with real-world knowledge that produced the much needed price stability in perhaps the most economically important commodity in the world into a pit of wild, manipulative speculation, populated by individuals whose only connection to the oil business came when they visited the Exxon station once a week, akin to the stock market, resulting in the price of oil gyrating madly and having no grounding whatsoever to the fundamentals of the oil business; this fiasco can be corrected legislatively.

The transformation of the electoral process into a game dominated not by citizens devoting, on a part-time or seasonal basis, some of their time and skills to the activity to a system that has been "professionalized" and dominated by what are essentially advertising people [pollsters, strategists, whatever names they dream up to describe themselves are advertising people, nothing more, nothing less], with politicians as their specialized clientele is not something this writer thinks the Founders did or could have envisioned.

Solution? None.

This is not commodity trading we're talking about; this is Free Speech, political Free Speech. Though it's tempting as hell, legislating away Free (political) Speech is anathema to me. And without legislation the dynamic of the professionalization of the electoral process will continue, perhaps at some point eliminating the need for the candidate completely: the pollster will be not merely the pollster, s/he will be the Candidate as well.

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