Remember the good cop/bad cop? In fact, the police are never on your side. Either is the government.
Americans have always had a healthy distrust for government. They are not stupid. As Michael Moore points out, just listen to them discussing something really important, like baseball statistics.
For about the last 50 years, the people's strategy has been to play one side off against the other. (Don’t try this at the police station, though.) Usually one party will control the executive and the other the legislature, or the houses of the legislature will be split between the two parties. The election in 2000 were almost perfect, in that no one really won the presidential race and the US Senate split was exactly 50/50.
Why are Americans so loyal to their government? We are engaged in a kind of consensual sado-masochistic relationship between government and the governed. People want to be punished for their sins. For example, no one can seriously argue that drunken driving is a good thing, (40% of all traffic fatalities) but everyone does it until they get caught. Government relieves us of the responsibility of governing ourselves, of being accountable for our own actions.
The masochist and the sadist often prearrange what is called the “safe word” The masochist can cry out in pain; but actually he’s enjoying it. He can yell “Stop! Stop!” but he doesn’t really mean it. When the situation gets really really scary though, or even dangerous, he yells out something odd like “Aardvark!” which means “Really stop, this time.”
In American political life “Democrat” is the safe word.
Is 2004 time to call “Democrat”?
Everyone seems obsessed by a personal hatred for George W. Bush. Understandably so; Bush and his cronies are about the most vicious, slimy and smarmy political cabal ever assembled since the end of the Nuremberg Trials.
The task for this generation, though, is to end the war in Iraq. 9/11 was George Bush’s Reichstag fire. It gave him a cover for his planned invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. It was his excuse to flout international law and revoke important civil liberties in the US. It has enabled him to wrap himself in the flag and evoke a mindless brand of patriotism.
There may have been some excuse for American anger and aggression in Afghanistan - and the Taliban were fuckers anyway. But the invasion of Iraq has done nothing to improve the national security of the US; indeed, it increased the national insecurity. Clearly, as Mubarak of Egypt said, US military action is creating a generation with a hundred Bin Ladens. As demonstrated in recent prison photos, the whole war is nothing but an Oedipal exercise in the psycho-sexual pathology of governance.
Even if everything that was said about Iraq were true, there was still no need to invade. , Except for chemical warfare, Israel has done everything that Iraq has been accused of. Israel does possess very definite WMD’s and they have launched a real military attack on US forces. But there have never been any calls for the invasion of Israel.
On some level, everyone knew there were no WMDs, that the President was lying all along. Certainly the rest of the world knew this; with good reason: United Nations inspectors failed to discover any when they did go in. And, as I said, American are not stupid. Supporters of the war were shamefaced, subdued in their defense. They sank into the war with a kind of masochistic languor, rejoicing in the opportunity to allow the President to take their decisions out of their hands.
To vote or not?
I've always argued that it's permissible to vote under two circumstances. First, as a member of an organization that's inherently revolutionary, like a labor union or a solidarity group. Consensus is not practical for more than a handful of people, sometimes even when they're Quakers . Secondly, as support for a group that's already organized in the street.
Neither of those circumstance apply now but I can appreciate the desire to vote in 2004. Many lives would be saved if the war in Iraq ended. Also the spokesperson for Viet Nam Vets Against the War is probably the best candidate we'll get on a national political level. What does it say about the Left if they can't support him.
Personally I don't have to make a choice. I live illegally in a building where I can't get mail. The last time I voted, in 1988 Hennepin County sent a couple of men in suits around when my mail bounced. They found that I was using an address in a building that wasn't zoned as residential. My choice then became whether to lose my franchise or my home. I was paying only $200 a month rent for a big room in the center of downtown, so it wasn't hard to decide.