by Zafar Bangash (Opinion, Crescent International Vol. 45, No. 9, Safar, 1438)
One of the remarkable aspects of the American system is that people actually believe they have a say in how their president is elected. The media plays its role in pushing the establishment’s agenda to perpetuate the myth.
The US election cycle every four years has great entertainment value even if it is an exercise in futility as far as the people are concerned. They are led to believe that they decide who is to be president for the next four years. The fact is that this decision is made by the “enlightened elite” who consider the masses too stupid to know what is good for them. The American elite have a point: the masses are kept almost entirely in the dark about the true nature of government, who the real policy-makers are and how the US Congress functions and at whose beck and call.
It is safe to assume that the vast majority of Americans have not heard of Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, or Jerry White, three other candidates in the presidential race. This is because the US establishment as well as the media controls the message. By excluding other candidates from television debates and refusing to provide them newspaper space, the impression is firmly planted in the minds of people that there are only two candidates: nominees of the Democratic and Republican Parties. Similarly, the issues raised in debates are carefully controlled. Thus, the people are not allowed even to think for themselves or bring up the issues that matter to them.
The Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton is the establishment’s candidate and every effort is made to project her. Her Republican rival Donald Trump is a loose cannon and although he has made his billions through the same controlled system, he is presenting himself as an “outsider.” Aware that he is likely to lose the election, he has alleged that the presidential election is “rigged” in favor of his rival. Trump is only partly right; the entire system is rigged. There is ample evidence from past elections. In the 2000 elections, thousands of African Americans were disenfranchised and while Al Gore, the Democratic candidate had a larger share of popular vote in Florida and there were calls for a recount, the conservative dominated Supreme Court handed the state to George Bush and therefore the presidency. A similar charade was enacted in 2004 when a list of 57,000 dead people compiled in Texas was used to disenfranchise people in Atlanta. If even half of one’s name appeared close to the list from Texas, he or she was disqualified in Atlanta.
Trump believes something similar is afoot but in reverse. He has urged his supporters to monitor polling stations carefully to prevent fraud. There is considerable risk that violence may erupt when he loses the election on November 8, as is widely believed he would.
Beyond voter-suppression and ballot rigging — only half of eligible voters ever bother to cast a ballot, hardly the hallmark of a great democracy — lies a much bigger problem: that of corporations buying candidates. It is said that America has the best democracy money can buy. Campaign spending by presidential and congressional candidates this year is likely to top $7.3 billion. While Trump himself is a billionaire, Hillary Clinton is beholden to Wall Street executives. Her speeches confirm this.
She is also a hawk on foreign policy and represents the militaristic wing of the American establishment. Clinton had made the scandalous statement after Muammar Qaddafi’s public lynching in Sirte, Libya in October 2011, “We came, we saw, and he died.” Ms. Clinton is also far more pro-Zionist than President Barack Obama, or her rival, Donald Trump.
To call America a democracy with all the faults that a democracy entails would be a gross injustice. America is ruled by an oligarchy in which the needs of ordinary people are totally ignored. After all, Obama had come to power amid great hopes. He had popularized the slogan, “Yes, we can.” Eight years after Obama falsely aroused such hopes, the vast majority of Americans has seen none. Their life is a perpetual cycle of misery. Even though America’s increasingly privatized prisons, warehousing mostly African Americans and other minorities, are overflowing with the shattered lives of its imperial legacy, the corporate thieves continue to plunder while the poor fall deeper into poverty. Obama has launched more drone strikes against people in distant lands than his rightly reviled predecessor. The only difference is that he does it with a smile while his predecessor did it with a scowl.
America’s political and economic systems are completely rigged. They are not meant to serve the people, notwithstanding the high sounding slogans that are uttered during every election cycle. The corporate media pundits make sure that people’s attention is focused on such issues as personal survival, baseball games, and alcohol and sex scandals. Even Bernie Sanders, the so-called socialist candidate, turned out to be a fraud. He thundered against Wall Street’s corporate thieves only to now be calling on his supporters to vote for Wall Street candidate, Hillary Clinton.
Need one say more about the US political system?
Zafar Bangash is Director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought (ICIT).