I was raised in a large working class family sustained by the wages my father earned as a member of a union ( and later as a union leader) in an industry that has all but gone the way of the pterodactyl. So it goes. But at the time, on his modest salary, he was able to keep eleven of us not only clothed and fed, but enrolled in Catholic schools and eventually living in our own house. All this on a single salary. All this utterly unthinkable in our day. Why ? What happened ? Ours was a home in which the ghosts of Governor Al Smith, FDR and the Kennedy brothers were almost corporeal beings and the Democratic Party, as imperfect as any human organization, was the unambiguous and proud champion of our class, the working class. In the world in which I grew up, if you were not rich, you would have been thought mentally ill to vote for the Republican Party.
And I do not recall ever hearing talk of “the lesser of two evils” and you can rest assured, I was listening.
This, of course, was before the advent of the worst aspects of American liberalism, the endless divisiveness of identity politics, the astounding and abiding success of political hucksters like Bill Clinton, the passing of NAFTA, the off-shoring of the American manufacturing base, the relentless undermining of unions, the repeal of Glass-Steagall and the advent of financialization: all of these which collectively comprised the wholesale betrayal of the American working class. All of which were aided and abetted, when not outright championed, by the Democratic Party.
I write this not as an exercise in useless nostalgia but as a context for my refusal to insult myself by casting a vote for a party that has not merely long ago ceased to represent the likes of myself (in point of fact, outside of corporations I do not know exactly who the Democratic Party does represent ) but has, in many ways, degenerated into an active enemy. This is most true in the Democratic stand on labor. It has left millions and millions stranded. Which is exactly where they want us to be. Their tacit question: Where are you going to go ? To the Republicans ? To the Tea Party ? And this pathetic trap has been set largely by the successful exploitation of the politics of fear and playing the card of the lesser of two evils again and again and again.
So here it is, Election Day and I’m facing the same hand I’ve been dealt for virtually my entire adult life. But today there is a difference, a logical and inevitable difference: as the corporate state has consolidated itself within both parties and, outside of “trigger” issues such as gay marriage and abortion, the two parties major political positions have become more and more alike, the lesser of two evils has in many cases become merely the slower of two evils. This is the only way I can view the choice of Mr. Obama or Mr. Romney.
I have not the time to discuss my disgust with President Obama’s policy of murder by drone, his refusal to prosecute either the people who brought the world economy to the brink of disaster or the war criminals of the Bush administrations, his failure to close Guantanamo or his belief that he has the right to order the assassination of anyone on earth, among other things. Nor have I any doubt that Mitt Romney would be as bad or worse on any of the above. Rather I wish to argue that both men wish to lead the nation to the same end using slightly different means. And that end is the complete domination of the corporate state.
Consider that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney traffic exclusively in platitudes, are complete and committed corporatists and are, as such, owned, lock, stock and barrel. Which is not to say there are not differences between the two. Romney is far more obvious and forthright about his allegiance. When Romney declared that “Corporations are people too, my friends”, he meant it and he doesn’t seem to care who knows it.
Obama, meanwhile, is infinitely more of a stealth promoter of the corporate state: he wants it in there before you notice and seems very concerned with establishing some similitude of public consent and, short of that, someone else’s fingerprints, preferably yours, on his schemes. Obama wants you to like him as he debases your existence and tries to enlist you in your debasement. In other words, he wants political cover and some version of plausible deniability — even when he is in complete agreement with what he is ostensibly opposing.
Romney, on the other hand, seems content just to smile his howdy doody smile and talk about how wonderful Americans are by virtue of their being American. God, you understand, loves us more than other people. And who can blame him ?
Consider Barack Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s approach to education, the issue that ,as one of 3.2. million public school teachers and a father of a public school student, is nearest and dearest to my heart.
Both Obama and Romney are tireless champions of what is euphemistically called “education reform”; what is, in fact, a relentless bi-partisan billionaire backed campaign to privatize the public school system while busting or rendering ornamental the teachers’ union, the last large union standing in our country. And note well that neither candidate would allow their own children anywhere near a school implementing their reforms. And for excellent reason.
Romney’s plan is as simple and transparent as Romney himself: eradicate the federal Department of Education and give vouchers to every family in the continental USA. And smile idiotically while doing so.
Presto! The hidden hand of the magical free market will be eradicating “the achievement gap ” and passing out diplomas before you can say “Wall Street!” The same (even more) hidden hand will also be handing out pink slips to most if not all of the 3.2 million teachers who will in turn implode their union.
Bingo! Two birds with one stone !
Now think about Obama’s signature educational initiative, Race To the Top. The name alone billboards Obama’s complete alignment with corporate ideology. Races, as you know, have winners and losers. Public institutions should not. That goes double for schools. In point of fact, despite the incoherent, indefensible claims of both American Federation of Teacher’s president Randi Weingarten and National Education Association president Dennis Van Roekel that Obama is somehow a pro-public education president, RTTT is designed to simultaneously undermine both the public school system and the teachers unions and usher in the complete privatization of the public school system on a national level. Slowly. And with political cover. You see, they will claim, we tried. Public schools simply don’t work and so we must let corporations run them. Sorry.
Whereas Romney wishes to do away with public schools with a couple of swift death blows, the kinder gentler Obama wishes to asphyxiate it over time with a number of objectively unfair and unscientific schemes, all having to do with standardized tests, all products of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, those deeply concerned private citizens who make public policy for your child and mine. Obama wants teachers and teachers unions to assist him by committing slow collective suicide while perhaps allowing a few here and there to maintain their jobs.
Fours years into the works RTTT is incrementally succeeding at all of these goals accompanied by the startling spectacle of union teachers praising the president and rallying for the reelection of the man who is actively and consciously destroying their workplaces, threatening their livelihoods and force feeding a lousy paint-by-numbers pseudo education on the nation’s children but not Obama’s and his friends.
Many teachers are doing this because the other guy, Romney, is even worse. This is undoubtedly true. Romney is a nightmare. But so is Obama. And so is this scenario. And so is this country. These are the choices of caged animals, not free human beings. And this nightmare will remain and, in fact, grow more so if we do not cease accepting the pathetic and grotesque choices we are given, do not cease accepting the cynical trap that has been set for us do not cease accepting that this is just the way it is.
Education is one issue, to be sure. But to be just as sure, it is emblematic of how the man and the Democratic party now operate. Look at them. Andrew Cuomo is a Democrat. Rahm Emanuel is a Democrat. Bill Gates is a Democrat. So is every member of the hedge fund gang who created and bankroll Democrats For Education Reform. They are also, like our beloved president, insidious union busters.
So welcome to your plutocracy. Welcome to the almost completed corporate state. Welcome to the ever-shrinking farce of political choice. Welcome to the lesser of two evils where inevitably there is more and more evil all the time. How can there not be ? What and who is there to stop it ? You will forgive me or you won’t for my outright refusal to vote for a president who has made no secret of his outright contempt for working people, labor unions, the poor, due process of the law and habeas corpus because he knows he can get away with it because he know you know his opponent is even a greater a danger than he.
This is not the position of a free people. To accept this is to abdicate one’s intellectual, spiritual and civic responsibility. It is to surrender one rights. It is to accept and legitimize powerlessness as call such powerlessness freedom.
I am a human being who believes, body and soul, in participatory democracy, attempting to be as free as I can be. Therefore I am voting for Jill Stein and the Green Party.