American Dumbocracy

(Recycled from the House of Love)

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I won’t take any credit for predicting with such pinpoint accuracy the outcome of the Supreme Court case and the American Presidency. It was, after all, the same outcome predicted by just about everyone. So congratulations to President Dickhead — we’re all looking forward to four years every bit as inspiring and entertaining as your father’s incumbency.

So where does this leave America’s "democracy"? Perhaps you’re interested to know how the rest of the world will receive your usual high-and-mighty hectoring on this subject. Indeed, Al Gore seems to have had this on his mind during his concession speech:

"And I say to our fellow members of the world community, let no one see this contest as a sign of American weakness. The strength of American democracy is shown most clearly through the difficulties it can overcome."

Speaking as a "fellow member of the world community," I’d like to offer just a few dot points about "the strength of American democracy":

  • In America, elections are determined without counting all votes legally cast.
  • In America, mechanical vote-casting and vote-counting machines are more likely to work correctly in affluent areas, while in poorer areas with larger non-white populations the machines are more likely to malfunction.
  • In America, the Presidential ballot, and the standards by which those ballots are counted, are different in every state, and in every county of most states.
  • In America, the persons responsible for overseeing the conduct of elections, and certifying election results, are elected politicians, not independent officials. (In Florida, the person responsible for overseeing the fair conduct of the election, Katherine Harris, was also the campaign manager for George W. Bush). Similar rules are used to govern elections in Laos and Burma.
  • In America, the state legislature can simply ignore the results of an election if it so desires and appoint whomever it wants to the electoral college.
  • In America, the Congress can simply ignore the electoral college if it so desires and appoint whomever it wants as President.
    American democracy can now be properly understood
  • In America, despite the fact that only 51% of eligible voters are likely to cast a vote, there are widespread reports of voters being made to wait long periods, in some cases hours, before being able to cast their vote, and of polling booths closing while people are still waiting in line. It appears this is most pronounced in less affluent areas with large proportions of non-white voters.
  • In America, many non-white voters have complained of being harassed by police while waiting to vote, or of being turned away from polling booths.
  • In America, fourteen states (including Florida) permanently disenfranchise voters who have been convicted of a felony, even after the individual has completed his or her prison sentence. These laws disproportionately affect African-American and Hispanic voters, the vast majority of whom are victims of the war on some drugs. Across the United States, 13% of African-American men have been permanently stripped of their right to vote.
  • In America, the single most important public events in the contest for the Presidency are the televised debates. These debates are exclusively operated by a company jointly owned by the Republican and Democratic parties — the Commission on Presidential Debates. Presidential candidates from any ‘third’ party are required to request permission from the CPD to participate in these debates. In 2000, the CPD denied Ralph Nader and Patrick Buchanan’s requests to be included in debates. The CPD defines the criterion for inclusion in the debates as being that the candidate must have a realistic chance of being elected. You have no chance of being elected unless you’re in the debates, and you can’t be in the debates unless you have a chance of being elected: Catch-22.
  • In America, furthermore, in 2000, a candidate for the Presidency (Ralph Nader) was not even allowed to sit in the audience for the debates, despite the fact that he had obtained a ticket to enter from the CPD. Police force was used to prevent Nader from entering the building in Boston where the debate was being held.

These are just a few examples of the parlous state of America’s so-called "democracy". If nothing else, the 2000 Presidential election has shown the "world community" just what a fiction the notion of democracy is in the United States, and just how little credibility the US has in lecturing other countries about their own procedures of government.

The great myth (which I have always been shocked to discover many Americans actually believe) that America is in some way the homeland of "democracy" and "freedom" has been laid bare in the last few weeks. American democracy can now be properly understood for what it really is: a convenient collection of fictions designed to anaesthetise the population into acceptance of their role as subservient consumers in a system of government which is, not in blackletter law but nonetheless in practice and effect, racist, sexist, imperialist and ultimately subservient to the power of global corporate capital.

The twentieth century was, probably, the century of democracy. But the twentieth century is over and democracy lies naked and vulnerable, shuddering beneath the shadow of rapacious capital. It’s enough to break your heart.