Now that the Republicans and Democrats have had their national conventions, we can look forward to eight weeks of vacuous campaign slogans and political platitudes. We will hear talk of “jobs” and “the economy.” It will be Team Blue versus Team Red, “Forward” versus “Believe in America.”
No doubt tens of millions of Americans will be taken in by the electoral three-ring circus. Partisans will cheer “their guy”, jeer the “other guy”, and voters will dutifully line up at the polls in November to perform the civic ritual.
Yet no matter which party wins, nothing will change because there are no meaningful differences between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Both men support an interventionist foreign policy, preemptive wars, an Orwellian police state, corporatism, and domestic socialism.
So what should we make of the 2012 presidential election?
As the anarchist Emma Goldman said nearly a century ago, “if voting made a difference, it would be illegal.”
The ugly truth is America’s electoral system is window dressing for the power elite who represent true apex of political power. This “High Cabal” or oligarchy determines the broad policy agenda of the country while leaving the matter of its implementation to an elected political class.
Now this does not mean that voting is completely pointless. After all, window dressing does serve a purpose. In our democratic age voting confers legitimacy on the state which the power elite use to achieve their objectives.
The genius of this oligarchic system is its subtlety. It is fundamentally elitist but superficially democratic and participatory. Opinion polls are conducted, campaign buttons are distributed, and political pep rallies are held. The people are encouraged to vote every two or four years for selected candidates but they have no real say in the direction of fundamental policies.
Consent is manufactured and perception is managed through a corporate owned and corporate controlled media. The major newspapers and network and cable news stations basically function as organs of propaganda for the power elite. The job of the mainstream media is to focus on trivial matters and political gossip which creates the illusion of vigorous debate while avoiding uncomfortable questions regarding the oligarchic system itself. Those who do raise such questions are marginalized and effectively silenced.
Now for those who take pride in America’s democratic traditions, the idea of an oligarchy or power elite manipulating events from behind the scenes sounds unpatriotic, conspiratorial, and farfetched. Yet many respected scholars have presented compelling evidence supporting just that.