And although it seems heaven sent
We ain’t ready, to see a black President
– Tupac Shakur
They might be ready now.
In a few hours, assuming there isn’t a repeat of the drama of 2000, it should be clear whether or not the United States will elect a black man as President for the first time in its history. Judging from the polls and from all that I have heard it seems likely that Barack Obama will indeed win.
But I’m not here to talk to Americans about their own business. I’m not an American citizen so I can’t even cast a vote. However, as the United States is presently the most powerful and the most wealthy nation on the face of the earth, their election result will have an effect on the rest of the world. This is what I want to discuss.
Michael Parenti, in his book Democracy for the Few, describes the US election process as “the greatest show on Earth.” This time, however, they really have outdone themselves. This show has gone on for years. From the early speculation about who would run for the Democratic nomination to the long battle between Obama and Hillary Clinton, and the last minute wild-card insertion of Sarah Palin, there has been no shortage of drama. However the lesson Parenti wants you to draw from all the political pyrotechnics is that it’s all a diversion.
Did you ever wonder how a country as massive as the United States can only have two parties? That in a country with 305 million people there are only two choices? Well unbeknownst to the majority of Americans, they do have more choices. Have you heard about the Green Party presidential candidate, a black woman named Cynthia McKinney? What about Libertarian presidential nominee Bob Barr, and Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader? Yes. I’m not making this up, they are all running for President of the United States today along with Obama and McCain. Why haven’t you heard about these people? Simply put, they have been made invisible by design.
To paraphrase Noam Chomsky, the Democrats and Republicans are essentially factions of the same party; The Business Party. The two parties collude to maintain a monopoly on the American political system. Take the debate process for example, did you know that the Obama and McCain campaigns have negotiated a contract that determines who participates in the debates and even what the topics raised will be?
“We don’t know the extent of the rules, because, precisely because, the Obama and McCain campaigns have absolutely refused to release the detailed contract that dictates the terms of [the] debate.”
In other words, it’s a secret contract. The game isn’t so scary when you can make all the rules. One of those rules though is obviously the exclusion of third parties voices.
But isn’t the United States a democracy? Perhaps “Plutocracy” is a better word for their system. Parenti says that “the two-party [American] electoral system performs the essential function of helping to legitimate the existing social order.” To boil it down even further, Americans don’t even have two choices.
This is not to say that there is no difference between the Republicans and the Democrats, because there is. It’s just not so wide a difference as is commonly thought. Instead of night and day, think of the difference between raspberry and strawberry ice-cream. If Obama wins, a few extra dollars of the budget will go to social projects and poor people, while the billions that fund their enormous war machine will continue essentially unchanged.
What is important is not so much what men say when they are anxious for power but what they actually do once that power is conferred on them.
– Robert M. Spector
Barack Obama is a phenomenon. His speeches have inspired people to a degree that I have never seen before. If I didn’t know better I would think that every black person on the planet will be voting with their hearts today. Take a look at this website, it was set up by a Nigerian friend of mine showing Obama posing as myriad fictional and historical heroes. I have a Bahamian friend who has compared Obama to Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King Jr. He nearly went as far as to compare Obama to Jesus Christ.
With catchy slogans like “Change we can believe in,” “Yes, we can,” the operative word being “believe,” Obama has developed and nourished something that is akin to a global cult following. Delusions of Obama as the world’s messiah are fair to no one, least of all to him.
He may well turn out to be a “great [US] president”, but we, in the rest of the world, need to remember that US presidents don’t work for us. They have their own country’s national interests, however they define them, to look after. We need to remember that the foreign policy of the United States is not something that is about to change. Remember that if Obama was really about changing the status quo, he would never have made it this far.
Which brings me to one of the few reasons I appreciate Bush. He has really done well exposing US foreign policy for what it really is: the maintenance of Empire. The war of aggression in Iraq is not some aberration, this has been going on internationally since 1898, and if you ask the Indians and the Mexicans, they would tell you it started a long time before that.
When charismatic presidents take office, Bill Clinton for example, it’s easy to forget that their eloquent words and high sounding rhetoric are a veneer that can mask truly horrific deeds. Whoever becomes the next president will be no different. The Empire must be maintained.
To quote Tupac one last time: “And still I see no changes.”