Site editor’s note: This post from DJ Pangburn originally appeared on death + taxes.
What to do if you’re courageous enough to admit the Obama administration and Democrats are full of shit and the Tea Party and Republicans are dangerous and stupid?
President Barack Obama soared into the public consciousness with a stirring speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. He then took Howard Dean’s example and used the power of the Internet to create a fundraising juggernaut for his historic 2008 Presidential run. With a swiftness not seen since JFK’s political ascendancy, Obama became president and claimed broad power to affect “change” across the country. But Kennedy only had to surmount his Irish Catholic background — Barack Obama had to transcend the fact that he is African-American.
But appearances are, in the final analysis, immaterial. Just as a magician uses scenery and sleight-of-hand to divert the audience’s attention, Barack Obama has used his background, intellect, perceived worldliness and powers of speech to distort the reality field, as I call it (to repurpose Steve Jobs’ “reality-distortion field”). To get Americans thinking about a certain reality, while another is at work behind the scenes.
Maybe you — an Obama voter — have asked yourself, “What happened to the man for whom I voted?” I would argue nothing. Make no mistake about it: Barack Obama is a masterful political manipulator. And if one is able to let dissolve mental distinctions of party — Democrat, Republican — then Obama can be seen for what he really is: a trojan horse.
I am not a religious man. I am not a Republican and I am not a Democrat. A Jeffersonian Democrat might be more on point. But labels are so inelegant and ultimately rather pointless. And, I must admit, I erred most spectacularly in my vote for Barack Obama. There I sat front and center in the Obama Magic Show: my reason lobotomized by my desire—no, need—to see a man of great intellect inhabit the office after the devolutionary presidency of George W. Bush.
This was Obama’s greatest trick: the lobotomization of man’s capacity to reason. The wolf hadn’t come in sheep’s clothing — he’d used the alchemy of television and print to transmogrify himself into a saint. All were not fooled by the illusionist, however; but just enough were dazzled in the end to give Obama the presidency and the Democrats control of Congress, where they continued the Bush policy of caving to corporate masters and of American political and economic hegemony.
The Koch Brothers-funded Tea Party reactionaries, however, aren’t as into illusion as Obama and the Democrats, unless of course you examine the sugar daddies behind the Tea Party apparatus, flush with corporate dollars. Look into Robert Rowling and Trever Rees-Jones of American Crossroads (a 527 organization led by Karl Rove), or more prominently Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News, his perpetual motion machine of corporate pitch men.
The answer for them is limited government but robust national defense policy. Translation: unimpeded corporate dominance in the U.S. economy and muscular foreign policy in the Reagan and Bush 43 tradition, which will benefit defense contractors. Two different but ultimately convergent streams to enrich corporate entities. The openness of this method is startling in its brazenness.
The Tea Party has some sensible ideas in the limited government platform, but the reality of their vision would be an approximation of the Reagan and Bush presidencies: secrecy, hawkish military maneuvering, corporate welfare, rapacious capitalism and so forth. That is the endpoint of the limited government espoused by the Tea Party reactionaries. Defense contractors and corporations benefit markedly, and maybe some benefit will be seen elsewhere, but certainly not in middle-class bank accounts. Limited government, in fact, is devoid of meaning because the master remains the same: big business.
President Obama revealed his true colors when he had a unique moment in American history to effectively punish Wall Street and the banking system that brought the nation and the world to its knees, but did not. Wall Street’s banks went unpunished. Why? Obama’s economic team, populated by ex-Goldman Sachs bankers, continues to let the Federal Reserve act as Wall Street’s visible hand in the nation and world’s economy. What, I ask, has really changed from President Bush’s presidency to Obama’s?
Obama’s pulling the military out of Iraq finally (though advisors will remain) but escalating our Afghan campaign. He lords over the largest intelligence services in the world in the CIA and NSA, who continue their culture of violating civil liberties. And Obama will be given the power to essentially “kill” the internet by way of the Senator Joseph Lieberman-sponsored “Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act (PCNAA).” The bill would allow the President to shut down all or portions of the internet in the event of a cyber attack, but this is all scenery because the potentialities of such power should be downright frightening to all Americans.
In the event that our government becomes outwardly oppressive in the future — a fundamentalist, crusading religious state, for example — the President would be able to shut down the Internet. The President, in effect, would be able to effectively control the flow of information; control the message in any critical moment; dissent would be crippled; mobilization of protests eliminated, or at least rendered more manageable. It would make a mockery of the American right of free speech and assembly, and mark us as no freer than the Chinese people.
And, as Dylan Ratigan noted last week with his well-articulated rant on “Morning Joe,” Obama is maintaining the U.S. policy of not going after the source of radical Islamic terrorism–Saudi Arabian funding of Wahabi schools. Schools that gave birth to the men who have visited terror on the U.S. and the world for decades now, including the 9/11 attacks.
What is an informed voter to do when presented with the illusionary tactics of Obama and the Democrats and the oligarchical platform of the Tea Party Republicans?
I might be courting controversy here, but it occurs to me the only gesture that makes any sense is: Don’t vote.
Voting in past elections has continually given us two options — one found in the open contempt for common people (Republicans) and the other in the two-faced champion of the people (Democrats).
Your vote tethers you to the machine. It absorbs the last bit of freedom you possess: the freedom to resist your ownership by the mechanisms of power. We can never fully escape the political reality that a minority, cloaked in the illusion of majority rule (Democrats or Republicans), manages our lives in one form or another from the moment of our birth to our very last breath.
Vote and you endorse one unfair political system over another. You legitimize its existence. You may vote for Democrats in the mid-terms because you don’t want to hand power over to the Tea Party reactionaries (a legitimate concern), but you are endorsing an apparatus (the Democratic party) that is still dominated by big business.
Do not let others saddle you with guilt for exercising your right of refusal. Instead of voting, why not take a more direct path of action in your community by volunteering your time by helping a literacy organization, for instance. Teach creative writing so a generation will rise who can speak truth to power. Educate others about the real stories behind history that our education system cannot and will not (by government sanction) teach. Volunteer your time at a food pantry. Work for lower rent in your neighborhood, like James Sullivan would have you do. Organize with others to combat racial or other social injustices in your neighborhood.
As Professor Brian Martin of University of Wollongong, Australia, writes:
“[T]he founding of the modern state a few centuries ago was met with great resistance: people would refuse to pay taxes, to be conscripted or to obey laws passed by national governments. The introduction of voting and the expanded suffrage have greatly aided the expansion of state power. Rather than seeing the system as one of ruler and ruled, people see at least the possibility of using state power to serve themselves. As electoral participation has increased, the degree of resistance to taxation, military service, and the immense variety of laws regulating behaviour, has been greatly attenuated.”
There are other ways of exercising your civic duty to your fellow citizens.
Don’t vote. Do something.