Saturday, 6 October 2012

The dregs of democracy

Its conference season. Its also election time in the USA. Last Wednesday there was a Presidential debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, and earlier in the week Ed Milliband's conference speech.  What did we learn from these two events? The main outcome for me was that we learned how impoverished our democracy is in the west, how hollowed out it has become. We used to have a choice. In the UK it was a clear-cut choice between Labour and Conservative. Not any more. Politics has become homogenous. The very people who claim that they want us to have more choice, by which they really mean more privatisation, want us to have less and less choice when it comes to politics, and who we can vote for.

What was scary about to Obama-Romney debate wasn't the fact that , by all accounts, Romney won. It was the lack if difference between the two candidates. So dominant has the neoliberal consensus become amongst the political class that the debate is nuanced between minor differences in policy, whether to cut taxes a bit more or a bit less, whether to have a bit more private sector. Politics is now about personality. Is Ed a strong leader? Is he a geek? Who do you prefer Cameron or Milliband, Romney or Obama? Politicians have to market themselves to the electorate as Ed Milliband did on Tuesday. This is pure and utter bullshit, and a complete distraction from the things that matter - like policies for instance. But its a distraction which suits the neoliberal right. Let people argue about whether Cameron is better than Milliband, while we get on with asset stripping the NHS and the Public sector. Glenn Greenwald, writing in the Guardian, hit the nail on the head:
"Wednesday night's debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney underscored a core truth about America's presidential election season: the vast majority of the most consequential policy questions are completely excluded from the process. This fact is squarely at odds with a primary claim made about the two parties – that they represent radically different political philosophies – and illustrates how narrow the range of acceptable mainstream political debate is in the country."

The first Kennedy and Nixon debate in 1960

Out in the real world however, as we have seen all over the world, in Mexico, Spain, and the USA, millions of people want real choice and real change. Here in the UK our politicians have the democratic system with a Parliament and first-past-the-post voting system that is more fitted to the 17th century than the 21st century. That is why people are increasingly disillusioned with the democratic process. But that, in itself, suits politicians. However few people vote, they still get to be in power. What we have now, is a sham democracy instead of a proper democracy.  This is a sort of corporate-neoliberal totalitarianism maintained and stitched-up between corporations, politicians and the media, and before things can be changed for the better they look set to get much worse.

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