Rejecting the Perpetuation of False Choices

In the Voices section of today’s Leesburg Daily Commercial, regular contributors Kathy Weaver and Marvin Jacobson take up the cudgels for Barack Obama’s reelection. With Russ Sloan apparently on vacation (causing no perceptible drop in the quality of the paper’s “user experience”) this website finds itself in the unlikely position of doing Sloan’s job for him, though it goes without saying that we shall not be employing anything like the same tactics. For while we are broadly supportive of Weaver and Jacobson, they do not seem to have figured out that Barack Obama is as much of a threat to the public good as Mitt Romney.

Kathy Weaver appears to be affiliated with the Lake County Democratic Party, and one gets the impression that she has been tasked with a little more PR work since County Chairwoman Nancy Hurlbert’s name was dragged through the mud by the Obama flag fiasco. Marvin Jacobson’s involvement in local political groups is unknown to this website, but he has been a consistent opponent of Tea Party lunacy for a long time, and deserves much credit for explicitly addressing the development of an American oligarchy. The poor fellow even felt it necessary to explain to his readers exactly what is meant by the term, having perhaps noticed a recent response from a Fox News zombie which attempted to convince us that the elite we needed to fear was the socialist cabal within 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Compared to such ravings, Jacobson has been a relative voice of reason. But today, he undermined much of his past work by perpetuating one of the key misconceptions that allows oligarchy to thrive; to wit, the putatively axiomatic proposition that the American electorate is presented with a meaningful choice between two, significantly different, political parties.

Choose Your PoisonIronically, the only letter in today’s Daily Commercial that came close to perceiving the cynical hollowness of this phony dichotomy was from an apparent newcomer to the Voices section, Thomas Abrahmsen, who castigated professional politicians of all stripes for feathering their own nests. But this approach – focusing on the puppets and ignoring the strings – distracts us from the real enemy and is almost as dangerously misleading as Jacobson’s mirage of competing ideologies. While Jacobson correctly identifies the Citizens United decision as a boon to the puppet masters, his thesis that the Republican Party is the party of the rich hostile to the interests of ordinary people defended by beleaguered Democrats is disappointingly naive. What readers of the Daily Commercial really need to read, digest, and act upon, is that both major parties serve the oligarchy. The choice with which we are presented is that of a shopkeeper in an urban neighborhood forced to give protection money to one of two rival mobs; either way, we are being held hostage by organizations that pursue agendas inimical to the public interest.

Communicating this essential message in a community as conservative as Florida’s Lake County is a task of Sisyphean proportions. Not only must we overcome the almost genetic predisposition of Americans in general to perceive reality in Manichaean terms (cowboys v. Indians; the U.S. v. Japan/Germany/Russia/Iraq/Iran/North Korea/Libya/next bad guy du jour; righteous Christians v. atheists/Muslims, etc.). We must also contend with the divisions within the swarming ranks of the right wing that would lead many readers of the Daily Commercial to regard Romney as little different from Obama due to, inter alia, the similarity of their health care plans. Indeed, conservative commentators such as Cal Thomas, whose love affair with Newt Gingrich ended in tears all around, must be biting their tongues pretty hard when they urge their unthinking flocks to see Mitt Romney as America’s best hope against Obama’s allegedly immoral schemes. Propagandists such as Thomas and his local equivalent, Russ Sloan, have evolved in an environment swilling with corporate effluvia, causing their bodies to launch an auto-immune response when presented with any concept alien to that ideological framework. These creatures of the corporate oligarchy thrive on the perpetuation of false choices, which makes Jacobson’s descent into the same cognitive trap all the more galling.

For the benefit of Democratic readers who are by now on the verge of their own apoplexy, it’s time to confront some exceedingly ugly home truths. As we have discussed many times before, Obama’s single biggest crime on behalf of the oligarchy was his conspicuous failure to reverse the financialization of the American economy. Throwing away a historic opportunity to break the power of the banks over every other sector, he did exactly what his campaign contributors wanted and shepherded the banks back to safety, with little thanks from the right and too few howls of protest from the left. Democrats with a grounding in history need to ask themselves what FDR would have done in the same set of circumstances. Imagine, for a moment, if the obnoxious concentration of financial power in so few mega-banks had been prevented; if the Glass-Steagall Act had been reinstated; and if a tax on derivatives and other purely speculative trades had been levied, raising budget-straightening revenue from a source that can easily afford to pay it. Of course, the problem is that FDR could never be president in modern America. Jacobson, as noted above, is quite right to highlight the importance of money in modern elections; the big money players that control this spending would never sponsor an FDR. That said, the new American aristocracy has grown so arrogant that it is no longer capable of understanding the need for capitalism to reform in order to save itself, which is ultimately what FDR did. And now, further emboldened by successful completion of the planet’s greatest ever financial fraud, there is no stopping them. They will ignore all the warning lights on the dashboard until the engine that makes their progress possible grinds to a spectacular, explosive halt.

Obama’s other area of great service to the oligarchy has been hisWealth and Democracy repulsive continuation, and in some respects actual expansion of, his predecessors’ imperial wars of aggression across the globe. [Yes, that apostrophe is in the right place.] As the brilliant Kevin Phillips explained in his (as ever) prescient work, Wealth and Democracy, the American elite have long relied on external threats to distract the citizenry from their accumulation of riches and power. And they have also profited spectacularly from government spending on war efforts, as every Janus-faced Republican Senator knows only too well. War has become a permanent condition, threatening our fiscal solvency and – for those who dare to look – tearing our claims of global moral leadership as comprehensively as the bodies of the innocents we are never shown by our corporate-controlled media. As any reader of Glenn Greenwald can tell you, in the war department Obama has governed with the zeal of a hawkish Republican.

Against this backdrop, the ideologies of Barack Obama and MittĀ  Romney look about as different as a Ford Crown Victoria and a Mercury Grand Marquis. If we allow ourselves to fall for the retort that at least Obama is the lesser of two evils who will not, for example, nominate any more Scalias or Alitos to the Least Dangerous Branch, then we are as gullible as consumers of automobiles impressed by superficial trim. And that is precisely the way the corporate oligarchy wants us to be. We have been manipulated by professionally designed advertising pitches all our lives, trained to attach significance to distinctions without a difference. When the fate of our republic hangs in the balance, we need to break free of this conditioning and see things as they really are. Don’t count on the Leesburg Daily Commercial to be of any assistance.

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