Fear and Loathing on the 2012 Campaign Trail

By Jim Smith

The title is a homage to Hunter S. Thompson, who in my opinion was one of the most astute political observers of the 20th Century.

The quadrennial game of choosing a new president, or allowing the old one to continue, is underway. In one corner is Barack Hussein Obama, who inspired a new generation of voters in 2008 and then promptly alienated the bulk of them by pursuing the old politics once in office. In the other corner is Willard “Mitt” Romney, son of Presidential contender, George Romney, and founder of Bain Capital, a “leveraged buyout” (money for nothing) firm. These are the official candidates approved by the oligarchy, also known as the 1 percent.

There are also four interesting, “unapproved” candidates who are mostly ignored by the corporate media, and are certainly not allowed in the debates with the approved candidates.

They are, in alphabetical order, Rocky Anderson, former Mayor of Salt Lake City, who is running on his own party, the Justice Party; Roseanne Barr, comedian and leading actress in the former top-rated TV series, Roseanne, who is running on the Peace and Freedom Party; Gary Johnson, former Governor of New Mexico, who is running on the Libertarian Party; and Jill Stein, a medical doctor and activist, who is running on the Green Party.

I’ve made it no secret that Roseanne is my heart throb in this election. She is the bravest of the six, the most outspoken, the most radical (as in getting to the root of the problem). She is the only one who doesn’t talk like she’s just come from the Harvard University campus. No, Roseanne sounds like she’s just walked out of Ralphs Market into the parking lot where she’s having a conversation with some working class neighbors (the way someone talks is not a reflection on their intelligence, but on their upbringing which for Roseanne was a working class environment, not so for the others, apparently). Of course, she’s made a bundle from her runaway successes in TV, but it hasn’t gone to her head. She’s still one of us.

See Roseanne in action at the Venice Rally for Roseanne, Sept. 22, 2012:

• • •

The antics associated with the election campaign have been only for entertainment value for many years. The change in conventions from a place where party activists could debate and discuss their platform and candidates into a slick media hype reflects the drift of America from land of the free to land of the scared and watched.

The Wall Street/Military cabal continues to tighten their grip, not only on the presidency, but on the entire country. The murder of President John F. Kennedy was, in effect, a coup d’état by the 1 percent. Since then, military bases have been set up in a hundred countries, and here are home the police have been militarized and used as an instrument of social control. Much of the Left has refused to oppose this creeping authoritarianism because it’s easier to buy into the “lesser of two evils” scenario.

Party conventions used to be marked by real battles over platform and candidate. In 1924, Democrats took 103 ballots to nominate John W. Davis, who lost to Calvin Coolidge in the general election.

In 1972, George McGovern’s forces were victorious over the old guard Democrats on several platform votes on his way to winning the nomination. McGovern lost badly to Richard Nixon in the general election, but as Hunter Thompson pointed out, he might well have won had not another lone gunman, this time Arthur Bremer, not shot George Wallace. The Alabama Governor, had he been able to run on his American Independent Party, could have split the racist and reactionary vote with Nixon, thereby allowing McGovern to slip into office. (Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72, Hunter S. Thompson)

The McGovern loss to Richard Nixon marked the final defeat of the “glorious revolution” of the Sixties. Millions of mainly young people had fought a political and cultural revolution with a varying degree of consciousness about what they were doing. The ruling class responded with typical violence and repression including assassinations of our leaders, shootings of students, mass incarcerations and a media barrage that successfully marginalized the importance of the movement. Fifty years later, today’s sorry state of affairs stems from the defeat of the values of this historic decade when freedom, peace and love seems within our grasp.

• • •

Although it triumphed against its dissidents, rebels, revolutionaries and enemies abroad, the American political system has been approaching a paralytic condition throughout the post-World War II era. The stagnation and reversal of our freedom and democracy has coincided with the growth of the American Empire to world domination.

The nearly 200-year-old civilized process of electing our nation’s leaders peacefully degenerated into violence beginning in the 1960s with the killing of a president (JFK) and then of a presidential contender (RFK). This was followed by a president (Johnson) not seeking reelection because of unrest in the country. His successor (Nixon), and the Vice President (Agnew), were both forced to resign. The newly appointed president (Ford) failed to win election, and his successor (Carter) failed to win reelection. The Iran-Contra Affair nearly brought down the next president (Reagan), whose alibi was senility. His successor (Bush) failed to win reelection, being defeated by a president (Clinton) who was later impeached. Vote tampering (Florida) got the next president (Bush2) into office and then got him reelected (Ohio). After 45 years of the White House being occupied only by conservative Republicans and Southern Democrats, Obama was a breath of fresh air.

Unfortunately, Obama appointed the same old Wall Street cronies to his cabinet and as his top advisors. As the Iraq invasion/occupation was winding down, he sent more troops to Afghanistan. Wire tapping has soared during the Obama administration, and for the first time, a president claims the right to assassinate U.S. citizens. According to a May 29 article in the New York Times, Obama insists on approving “every new name on an expanding “kill list,” poring over terrorist suspects’ biographies on what one official calls the macabre “baseball cards” of an unconventional war.”

Meanwhile, we seem to have reached the high-water mark of the Empire. Most of South America has been lost without a shot being fired (¡Viva Chavez!). Now the Middle East is becoming “difficult” for American interests. Egypt is no longer an American plaything. Iraq is closer (in more ways than one) to Iran than to America. Afghanistan is a lost cause. Israel’s wag-the-dog demands to bomb Iran are angering U.S. policy makers who are worried about the flow of oil out of the region. New signs of instability in the “Kingdom,” Saudi Arabia, could escalate into an overthrow of Washington’s tyrannical friends. That would be the ball game.

Even though it doesn’t have a real adversary in the world, the U.S. military is scouring the world for faux enemies to justify the war and national security budget of nearly a trillion dollars.

While the Obama regime has supposedly stopped the torture of prisoners during the Bush-Chaney years, it has instituted the targeted killing of American citizens without a trial. The mightiest country in the world is reduced to fomenting drone attacks on poor peasants in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere. Interfering in civil wars in Libya and Syria is hardly like fighting a real war. CIA efforts to stir up something in Russia have largely fallen flat. China doesn’t want to play war either, it’s too busy raking in U.S. dollars from its peaceful production. The U.S. and Israel are doing their best to portray Iran as a fitting adversary, even though it hasn’t been a world power since around 500 A.D.

Not to worry, media hysteria, yellow journalism, jingoism and fear of foreigners is still alive and well in America.

The most successful war being fought by Democrats and Republicans, alike, is the War on Drugs, which in fact is a war on the American people. The government is able to lock up millions of Black, Latino and white men by making nearly every drug not controlled by the pharmaceutical corporations illegal. Once in prison, they are encouraged to make their fellow prisoners of different races the enemy, instead of those who locked them up in the first place. Prisoners, most of whom are put away for drugs or economic crimes, are the other 1 percent of the U.S. population.

The remaining poor people who are not yet incarcerated are subject to nearly daily harassment by any of the 700,000 police in this country. Evictions and foreclosures guarantee that more Americans will be forced onto the streets than ever before. Meanwhile, the dream of working class families to send a son or daughter to college is rapidly fading as tuition skyrockets. Young women will be further burdened by unwanted pregnancies as access to abortions and morning-after pills are further curtailed.

Speaking of drones, that’s exactly what workers are becoming, at least those who have a job. Even the veneer of democracy fades away when blue collar, white collar and professional workers enter their workplaces. There is no free speech, no democratic processes in giant corporations. Unions are rapidly becoming a thing of the past as membership declines to less than 8 percent of the corporate workforce. Real wages, (adjusted for inflation) stood at $314 per week in 1974. By 2004, they had declined to $277. The standard of living has gone down even further since 2004. It’s not a particular President, or even Congress, that is responsible for the decline of the American Dream. It’s the whole system of capitalism that is having more and more difficulty providing for the “masses.” The problem with the Democrats and Republicans is that they create the illusion that a simple change of policy or party can make everything all right. It is far too late for band-aids.

• • •

In spite of the multiple crises, including our overheating planet, swirling around all of us, the major candidates seem incapable of coming to grips with any of them. That’s not to say the campaign hasn’t been entertaining. The Democratic and Republican conventions both had their priceless moments.

Clint Eastwood will always be remembered for growling “go ahead, make my day.” Now, he will also be remembered as the man who talks to empty chairs. Had he been a saboteur, he couldn’t have done a better job derailing the Romney Express.

The Democrats had their own priceless moment when L.A. Mayor Antonio V. (I can’t write his last name since half of it is copyrighted by his ex-wife) stared into the TV cameras as his future went down the drain. It seems that the platform didn’t mention God, or God’s home town, Jerusalem. Both omissions are inexcusable in backward countries like the U.S.

“Just a technical omission,” said the Party bosses. It’s something that could easily be fixed by a voice vote of the delegates. Only problem was, most of the delegates did not see a need for mixing mythology with a political platform, or giving Jerusalem away to Israel without an agreement with the Palestinians who also claim it.

A two-thirds vote was needed to change the already agreed upon platform. TV viewers and observers in the convention hall thought that the “no” votes had it. Antonio, who was presiding at the time, said, “Let’s try that again.” The second vote came out the same way. Poor Antonio looked like a deer caught in the headlights. He started looking around the stage for help. It was a real dilemma. Should he report what he had heard, that the delegates wanted no part of God or Jerusalem, or should he go for political expediency. Usually, Antonio has no problem choosing expediency over ethics, faithfulness or the truth. But here he was on national TV. In the end Antonio choose to stand naked as a lying politician in front of millions of viewers.

• • •

After the conventions closed, it looked like smooth sailing for Barack Obama and a rout for Williard Romney. Then the first debate happened.

Some say Obama looked like the Prozac President. Al Gore said it was Denver’s high attitude. What Michelle said is probably unprintable.

I say it was his karma for again doing the undemocratic thing by going along with banning other legitimate presidential candidates from the debate. Obama and his “handlers” don’t want him to be held accountable by candidates to his left, including Rocky Anderson, Roseanne Barr and Jill Stein. To be fair, Romney likely doesn’t want any competition from Gary Johnson on his right. In addition, Stein has refused to debate with Barr, a decision that has resulted in some third party debates being cancelled.

The effort to silence alternative voices is also going on in California where the rules on how third parties stay on the ballot have changed. In the past, the Peace and Freedom Party, which nominated Ralph Nader in 2008 and Roseanne Barr in 2012 only had to gain 2 percent of the vote in a statewide election, such as, for Governor, Attorney General, etc. Now, to stay on the ballot, Peace and Freedom must have more than 103,000 registered members by 2014. It currently has around 60,000. It will take a monumental effort to sign up another 40,000-plus in less than two years. Fortunately, Roseanne Barr has been urging people to register Peace and Freedom at every opportunity. The Party’s registration figures will not affect this year’s election, but it will affect the long-term health of the U.S. political process. At 60,000 members, Peace and Freedom is far and away the largest socialist entity in the country. If it goes down, corporate control will increase and the people will have lost a vital alternative.

Thanks to C-Span, we can sometimes look in on what’s going on in Canada, a country much like the U.S., only nicer. They routinely have debates in election years for Prime Minister, with at least five candidates from various parties in the debate.

Now, just imagine a universe not far from here, where elections are publicly funded and all candidates have equal access to the media. In this other universe, there are six presidential candidates in the debates this year. Issues are raised and discussed including bringing all our troops home from everywhere, implementing jobs on demand (it’s already on the books), free single-payer health care, ending homelessness this year, leading a worldwide movement to reduce carbon emissions before they kill us, ending the banks control of the Federal Reserve, no foreclosures, a national rent rollback, rebooting everyone’s debt, not selling off our historic post offices, letting adults control their own bodies (drugs and sex), getting as many people into college as possible (it will pay off ten-fold in the long run), and many more urgent problems.

Romney did exceedingly well in the debate by appearing to be a human being and not a lizard with a face mask. Most viewed probably didn’t notice that he renounced his entire economic package as presented in the primaries.

Here’s how Romney became so charming (you read it first at Venice Dreams). Willard’s “handlers” knew he needed a complete personality swap if he was to be taken seriously by the voters. Therefore, they sat him down for eight hours a day in front of a TV playing the movie “Dave” over and over.

Dave was a 1993 film about a president, Bill Mitchell (named by the screenwriter after Venice’s own gadfly of the same name), who has a stroke and was incapacitated. His “handlers” find a look-alike named Dave Kovic (possible named after the former Venice resident, and Vietnam Vet, Ron Kovic).

Dave, as fake president, played by Kevin Kline, starts to get off the track set by the Bush-like Mitchell and begins proposing common-sense solutions to saving money in the federal budget in a voice just like Romney was using at the debate. Politics imitates art (again).

Obama came roaring back to defeat Romney in the second debate. Perhaps Obama’s handlers sat him down in front of the 2003 film, “Head of State,” in which Chris Rock plays the presidential candidate. In the film, Rock gets his biggest applause when he begins talking about some of the ordeals that working people confront in their daily lives. After each one he shouts out, “That Ain’t Right!” to cheers from the audience. If Romney can have a personality transplant, then so can Obama.

It may be too early for the press to start calling Obama “The Comeback Kid,” as they did Bill Clinton when he snatched victory from nearly certain defeat dealt him by better candidates in the 1992 primaries (read or watch “Primary Colors” for verification). No matter what, the drama has caught the attention of the public, at least those who vote. Forget about global warming, people living on the streets, wars and covert actions, rampant militarism and creeping authoritarianism. Now, it’s all about personalities.  It’s all great stuff to keep the masses entertained and thinking they have a democracy.

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