Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Peons for President
Smilin’ Jack McCain looked to be deep into downers last night. How the hell does he still manage to peregrinate and prevaricate at the same time? Hillary’s eyes went dead around the time she let her sang-Freud slip about Bobby Kennedy getting shot in June. Obviously, the campaign, already a grueling 16 months of 24/7 weeks with another five to go, has wasted them physically, mentally and emotionally. Obama, being the youngest, remains the hardiest. But he’s got to be tuckered to boot.
What’s frying them is not just the fire in their bellies. Though they are A list politicians giving their all to gain the putatively most powerful job in the universe, they are in actuality the peons of a secondary industry.
In every other nominally democratic country, elections remain a civic rite. Campaigns run for a set period, usually a month or two. Typically, free air time is mandated and equally distributed to candidates. France even prescribes equity in billboard space and placement. In parliamentary regimes, citizens vote for party lists rather than personalities--meaning they have to comprehend issues enough to know what each party is peddling.
There was a time when voting was a civic rite here as well. Rowdy and often rigged, elections nevertheless were about selecting solons for office. Then they succumbed to the stainless steel rule of American-style capitalism: any human activity that can be turned into a business will be turned into a business. It’s original purpose, whether choosing politicians or educating school kids, will become appurtenant to the drive for monetary profit.
Well, how do you commercialize elections? You have only to flick your tv remote to see. You transform them into advertising venues by making 15 and 30 second spots the chief means of contact between candidates and voters. Then you charge the candidates full freight, since occasional ads don’t qualify for the discounts given to regular advertisers. Finally, you make sure that the ads are not in fact occasional by making campaigns last longer and longer and longer.
Over the last couple of decades, what was once a small seasonal business for media companies, equivalent to, say, Halloween, has turned into a megamillions monster. Not only are there the candidate ads, but all the additional bucks raked in by the pundit shows and audiences drawn by the manufactured controversies endlessly churned out by the cable news nets. If you think that Keith Olbermann and Bill O’Reilly are there to trade barbs, think again. CNBC and Fox pay them to treat politics like a car wreck you can’t help gaping at.
If the candidate had the slightest concern for their own health, if the parties cared about their own power, if their fat cat contributors cared about where their millions were going, and if voters were really sick of the infinity of ideological idiocies imposed on them, they would join to put an end to this ridiculous business and go back to picking leaders according to to some rationale method.
But they won’t. The voters hardly care they’re being conned. And the other players would never dare challenge even a secondary corporate sector like media. If they had those kind of guts, we wouldn’t be the only people in the modern world who have to ask financial companies whether it’s profitable for them to let us see the doctor when we’re sick.
The lesson here is that if Clinton, Obama and McCain are literally willing to endure systemic exhaustion at the behest of Fox, NBC, ABC and their corporate parents, imagine the prodigies of prostration they perform for the bigger biggies on Wall Street!
Funny, isn’t it, that those at the very top of the food chain are as enslaved by rampant capitalism as its most miserable victims?