Once more, we have elected the status quo. That Obama won instead of Romney is irrelevant. It is the sad truth that no matter who you may have voted for yesterday, the slow and systematic stripping away of our civil liberties will continue, as will the catering to the 1%, the killing of our young people abroad in foreign wars, the drone attacks that kill civilians across the world, the destruction of the environment, and the continued efforts of our imperial powers to further America’s hegemonic hold on the planet. And do not be fooled, this will be at the expense of you and I, of the 99%, of the planet, and of the third-world. The rich, as they say, will continue to get richer, meanwhile we will watch on the side-lines as our planet burns to the ground.
I say we will watch on the side-lines because it seems that people, most people, are content to make their political mark only once every four years, and many people will hardly do that. So a handful of the population will, during a presidential election year, carry out the most basic of civil duties and cast a vote for one oligarch or another. Content that our civil duties have been carried out, we will all obediently slip away into oblivion and immerse ourselves once more for a political hibernation into our distraction of choice. Just like Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, we will again turn our backs to the reality that is unfolding behind us and content ourselves with mere shadows on the cave wall. Our TVs – the modern day shadows – will distract us with pretty people in reality television shows and behemoth men on sports fields.
Our elections were rigged from the start. New state voter ID laws helped to further disenfranchise the already disenfranchised by requiring a photo ID. And even as people voted yesterday, electronic voting machines were filmed switching votes for Obama to Romney in Pennsylvania. Yet even without these clear attempts to further erode our right to vote in this country, the odds were still stacked against us, simply a way for us to feel a part of the process. Those in power, the oligarchs, the specialized class, occasionally allow the masses to feel as if they are involved. As Noam Chomsky said in Media Control, “Occasionally they are allowed to lend their weight to one or another member of the specialized class. In other words, they’re allowed to say, “We want you to be our leader” or “We want you to be our leader.” That’s because it’s a democracy and not a totalitarian state. That’s called an election. But once they’ve lent their weight to one or another member of the specialized class they’re supposed to sink back and become spectators of action, but not participants.” Just as the story goes that the Roman Emperor Nero watched as Rome burnt to the ground, so too do we watch as fat oil execs and big bankers loot and plunder, destroying our country and the planet in their wake.
We can take some very fantastic things from yesterday’s election. Maryland, Maine, and Washington have all made a great leap forward by passing a law for marriage equality, an example that I hope the rest of the country follows. What’s more, Colorado and Washington have also legalized recreational marijuana. In the Senate races, there were also some notable wins. Elizabeth Warren beat out Scott Brown to be elected the first female Senator of Massachusetts. Warren is most known for her fierce crusade against Wall Street and the Big Banks and has been a strong consumer advocate. Further, Claire McCaskill won out over the now-infamous Todd Akin in the Missouri Senate race. Akin famously stated during his campaign that when a woman is raped, her body’s natural defenses have a way to “shut that whole thing down” if it is a “legitimate” rape (as opposed to one of those fake rapes) and avoid pregnancy. While our Presidential Elections may have been conceded long ago to the duopoly that is the Republican and Democratic parties, at least moments such as these show that we still can affect some positive change in this country.These few notable moments from yesterday’s election, along with movements like Occupy and the Tar Sands Blockade of the Keystone XL pipeline, are the things we must cling to in order to affect change. The absurd and theatrical focus on Presidential Elections in this country must stop. After all, no positive change has ever been enacted from the top down. Every forward change in history – from the abolition movement, to the civil rights movement, the women’s suffrage, and the labor movement – each of these was fought from the ground up. We must look to the Arab Spring, where the people in the streets decided to enact change for themselves. We must not be content with limiting our civic involvement to once every four years. We must push our representatives to make the changes we desire and not sit back, content to let our decisions be made for us. We can afford to remain in the cave no longer.
Alyssa Röhricht blogs at Crash Culture: Political Train Wrecks for Political Junkies