US Elections: Reviving the Electoral Myth

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The hype about the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary seems overwhelming. But it is still too early to tell what consensus will emerge in the dominant circles of the American ruling class about the political division of labor that will best serve its interests in the period ahead. However, it is clear that what is at stake for American capitalism in the coming presidential election are a) a break with the Bush administration's disastrous imperialist policies in order to significantly restore American authority on the international level, and b) a total refurbishment of the democratic mystification, which has taken a terrible beating since the year 2000.

Restoring American Imperialist Authority

Even before the November election, the bourgeoisie has made great strides in setting the stage for a full scale redressment of the catastrophic imperialist policy of the Bush administration. With virtually all of the neo-cons driven from the administration and the forced resignation of their close ally, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney is essentially the only hardcore hawk remaining in the inner circles of the administration. The permanent bureaucracy in the State Department, Defense Department, and the CIA, which represents the continuity of American imperialist policy through both Democratic and Republican administrations since the collapse of Russian imperialism in 1989, is increasingly exerting its influence in Washington. The neutralization of the Cheney-inspired campaign to stir up yet another preventative war, this time against Iran, is testimony to the power of this permanent bureaucracy. Career foreign service officials opposed the war plans as yet another irrational policy that would further isolate US imperialism on the international level. Military leaders were painfully aware that American forces are already stretched way too thin to sustain a third front in yet another theatre. And the intelligence bureaucracy, sick and tired of having its intelligence gathering manipulated and twisted by Cheney and the neo-cons with disastrous consequences, gave the administration's bellicose Iran policy the kiss of death by releasing its National Intelligence Estimate findings that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program over three years ago, thus eliminating the rationale of the Bush administration's bellicose policy.

This sets the stage for an even more far reaching realignment of imperialist policy, regardless of whoever wins the White House in November. It is perhaps noteworthy that Huckabee, the surprise winner in the Iowa Republican race, was the only candidate to denounce Bush's foreign policy as "arrogant, bunker mentality." Likewise, in the Democratic race, Obama, who has emerged as the main alternative to Clinton, was the only candidate who could claim that he had been opposed to the war in Iraq from the very beginning. Regardless of who wins the nomination, the struggle of the dominant fraction of the bourgeoisie to pursue a more sophisticated, more "multilateral" imperialist policy, that will lessen American imperialism's growing isolation and reestablish its authority on the international level seems to be making significant headway.

Refurbishing the Democratic Mystification

Initially it seemed that the 2006 election constituted a reinvigoration of an electoral mystification that had been badly tarnished by both the stolen presidential election of 2000 and the failure of the American ruling class to accomplish its belated 2004 consensus on the need to elect John Kerry president. By contrast, the 2006 election which put the Democrats in control of both houses of Congress, was portrayed in the capitalist media and by prominent politicians in both major parties, as an expression of the political will of the American people for an end to the war in Iraq, for a change in political direction at the national level. Politicians and political pundits alike threw around phrases like "a swing in the political pendulum," and a "tremendous blow to the Republican party," and there was growing acceptance of the notion that the Republicans were destined to take up the role of political opposition in the future political division of labor. For a while it truly seemed like the sorely eroded public confidence in the electoral process had been restored in the general population, including the working class. But this proved to be short lived as the failure of the Democrats to overcome the Bush administration's continued resistance to end the war in Iraq revived skepticism about the effectiveness of electoralism as a means of expressing the "popular will." Public opinion polls showed the approval ratings of both Bush and Congress hovering at record low levels, approaching 29%. The electorate was just as fed up with the Democrats as they were with the Republicans.

The bourgeoisie desperately needs the 2008 election to revive its central ideological swindle, the idea that participation in its elections is the means to achieve peaceful change in the direction of society. Having squandered the fruit of its 2006 election so quickly and given the persistent difficulty of the bourgeoisie's dominant fractions to control the electoral process in the context of worsening social decomposition, it is not clear whether the ruling class will be successful in reinvigorating the democratic mystification.

Sensing inevitable victory at the polls, Democratic politicians with presidential ambitions started the electoral circus so early this time around that they pose the potential of mutually destroying each other's political prospects by the time the primaries are over. Having started out riding a tidal wave of opposition to the war in Iraq, most of the major Democratic candidates now openly acknowledge that an early troop withdrawal is impossible and predict that troops will have to remain in Iraq for quite some time.

Prominent politicians from both parties are openly pondering whether the traditional two-party system is now too badly bent or broken to effectively serve the political interests of the ruling class and is considering support for a serious independent candidate. In their call for a two-day conference in Oklahoma in early January, former Democratic Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia, who served as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and former Democratic Senator David L. Boren of Oklahoma, who served as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee wrote, "Today we are a house divided. We believe that the next president must be able to call for a unity of effort by choosing the best talent available - without regard to political party - to help lead our nation." They went on to state, "Most importantly, we must begin to restore our standing, influence and credibility in the world." Other prominent participants include: former Democratic U.S. Sen. Charles S. Robb of Virginia (son-in-law of President Lyndon Johnson); Bill Brock, former Republican Party chairman and former Tennessee U.S. Senator; Jim Leach, a former Republican congressman from Iowa; former Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart, who also served in the U.S. Senate; departing Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who served on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee and denounced the Bush administration's Iraq policy as the greatest foreign policy mistake in American history; and ex-Democrat, ex-Republican New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire ready and able to not only offer himself as the nominee but also able to spend $1 billion of his $12 billion personal fortune to fund the campaign.

Whatever the outcome, the stakes are high for the bourgeoisie, but will mean nothing for the working class except that we will be subjected to a more finely tuned political propaganda used to manipulate us to accept the austerity policies employed to make us bear the brunt of the economic crisis and the imperialist policy that uses us as cannon fodder for American capitalism. -- Jerry Grevin, Jan. 5, 2008