[Marxism] U.S. political system (was: Numbers question)

Lou Paulsen Loupaulsen at sbcglobal.net
Tue Aug 3 17:48:31 MDT 2004

From: Jurriaan Bendien [mailto:andromeda246 at hetnet.nl] 


To me the American idea of democracy increasingly seems really weird  - it
is as if the 20th century never happened. In the countries where I've lived,
you have representative democracy, proportional representation and so on,
you have laws requiring political accountability by parties, and state
subsidisation of party-political activity to some extent. Therefore, all
political tendencies with a minimum level of support have a realistic chance
of a voice in government, and the parliamentary representation must
reasonably reflect the actual distribution of votes cast.




On the one hand, the U.S. system is very archaic, and on the other hand, it
is very "futuristic" in a capitalist-future way.  On the archaic side, it is
indeed as if the "20th century never happened" in the U.S. - to be precise,
the thing that "never happened" here was the growth of social-democratic or
labor parties with enough electoral power that the capitalist parties had to
take their existence into account, either by making accommodations, acceding
to their demands, or modifying the system to allow for more than two
parties.   As a result you have all these archaic and undemocratic features
like the "Electoral College" whose original purpose was to increase the
power of the southern slaveholders and which have remained in place for two


On the "futuristic" side, the U.S. system represents the capitalist dream in
which there is no possibility of independent political action by individuals
at all.  The political "parties" are really more like networks of businesses
than like organizations of persons.  They sell their political services to
factions in the capitalist class with great openness.  The Democratic
convention is more like a trade show (the Chicago Auto Show, for example)
than like any kind of deliberative meeting.  


Suppose you decide that you want to run for the Democratic nomination.  It
is just like starting a company.  You don't go to any pre-existing political
organization and try to convince them - that's not how it's done.  You
organize an independent enterprise.  You have to assemble start-up capital
and hire a management team, which will then carry on a sales campaign to get
you a high enough market share that the national party will buy you out.  It
is just like starting a software firm in the hopes that Bill Gates will buy
you out and make you rich.  


The political commentators discuss the competing advertising campaigns in
exactly the same way that they discuss the advertising campaigns for
competing brands of beer.  (In fact, the Miller Beer company is running an
all-too-accurate advertising campaign right now in which they are running
against Budweiser to become the "President of Beer".)  Political choices are
reduced to the model of consumers making choices in an oligopoly situation.
Will you buy Microsoft or Macintosh?  Ford, GM, Toyota, or Hyundai?  Kerry
or Bush?  


Now all concepts of individual political action, like protest, free speech,
organizing new parties, attempting to run for public office without millions
of dollars in corporate sponsorship, are not only made as impossible as
possible, but are portrayed by the priests of the church of capitalist
ideology as quaint relics of the pre-industrial age, suitable for the days
of Lincoln but certainly not practical in the present day.  From this point
of view the U.S. political system is highly "advanced" in the sense of being
as close to the ideal fully-developed capitalist system for buying and
selling governmental office and investing in candidacies as anything that I
know of.


Lou Paulsen



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