RNA - American voters, unfortunately, seem to be cursed with an almost limitless supply of masochism, or self-loathing….or maybe unwarranted optimism if you want to call it that. There is this perennial hope—or wishful thought—that we can actually implement change by voting. Seriously, it calls to mind the historic long suffering of Chicago Cubs fans. Or that iconic image of Lucy and Charlie Brown with the football, where she promises she won’t yank it away this time. He believes her every time, and of course, winds up falling flat on his back.
These are the metaphors that best capture politics in the US. Every once in a while an actual challenge emerges that might shake up the ruling order, or at least bring about change in some real way. Then the ruling class closes ranks and shuts it down without mercy. This has been true with the Democrats going way back, from Henry Wallace to Jesse Jackson. When Wallace was VP in 1944, the spot was snatched away from him with literally minutes to go at the convention in favor of Harry Truman—the man who never lost a night’s sleep over dropping the atom bomb. No one can predict or rewrite history, but in cases where the outcome certainly would have been very different, it turns out to be a self-correcting, closed loop system. No change is allowed or even possible.
This is the case with the so-called Biden Miracle. What we’re supposed to believe is that, despite Sanders’ huge momentum, with enormous enthusiasm and spectacular public rallies—even in Boston and Springfield—he underperformed to such an extent that changed the character of the race in one fell swoop. Other moderates, who had been preparing for this huge day, Super Tuesday, spending tens of millions of dollars, simply gave up and united behind Biden. In turn, all of their supporters and then some flocked to Biden en masse—literally overnight. It just doesn’t make any sense—doesn’t pass the smell test, as they say.
Part of the glibness with which they expect us to buy the narrative is that they don’t even admit what happened last time. It just doesn’t work that way—ever. Didn’t work in 2016. Sanders tried—much to the dismay of many, to convince his supporters to vote for Clinton, and to a devastating extent they wouldn’t, and black folks didn’t bother to show up in the enormous numbers the party relies on for every Democrat victory since Johnson. They would rather blame it on Russia. Maybe because they have ignored the main lesson of 2016, they genuinely think people are stupid enough to believe the Comeback Kid fairy tale.
Of course, there are levels of belief. But it is instructive to talk to working people, or poor people, and listen to their conversations. You hear things like “See—you can’t tell me it isn’t totally fixed.” “Someone got to Klobuchar and Buttigieg.” “Now you see why I don’t vote.” They are much less likely to trust the system than the professional class, who talk to others at the Yacht Club, or in their own social circles. They have more to protect, and treat the institutions and process as sacrosanct.
But then it is this stratum of the population—the upper quintile, or 20%--that the system is designed to keep loyal. I mean in addition to just being a conduit to keep money moving up to the 1%. And keep in mind, it’s not a court of law. No one needs to prove it; you can’t. It’s incredibly sophisticated. But it is a gut thing, as Marx said “knowledge goes through the gut.” And then people just don’t vote, especially if there is no candidate that represents them or they feel they’ve gotten screwed.
So why do they feel so alienated? And how does the mechanism work to prevent change? Well, it’s complicated. For the promoters of change in US politics, there have always been two strategies: inside the Democratic Party or outside. Both have their own traps, and are designed that way. Critics of the Sanders approach point out not only the weaknesses in his failure to take on imperialism head on, but for the venal sin of believing that you can trust a “party” that argues in court that it is not bound by law even to follow its own rules. This is a party that has been derided as the Graveyard of Social Movements, whose main purpose is to corral dissent into its own fold and quietly put it back to sleep.
But the outside strategy—at least in the electoral arena—is just as hopeless. And they work very hard to make it that way. It is almost impossible to get on ballots as a third party, and the entire apparatus is designed as a smooth machine to marginalize, trivialize and exclude any move outside the two party box. This prompts populists like Sanders, and Jackson before him, to think that maybe, just maybe, if we run within the party and overwhelm it with new energy we might deliver a knockout blow and somehow grab ahold of the levers of control. Again, think Charlie Brown and Lucy with the football. This time it will work. I don’t really blame either tendency for trying.
This, I believe, is what happened in Nevada and California, and it scares the living crap out of the powers that be. Hence the closing ranks. It’s a many tentacled beast, and it’s remarkably sophisticated. In the first place, what we call “elections” are rigged in a well-insulated, systemic way that no one even bothers to deny. Change is a threat, and you take care of threats by neutralizing them. So okay, what happens? Before even getting to the polls at all, an incredible array of weapons is put into play. Take Bloomberg. This racist billionaire who was a Republican until like yesterday, is allowed to spend a half a billion dollars of his fortune—that’s billion, five hundred million, to force his perspective into every TV, social media platform, device and video game in the country 24/7.
And what is that message? Billionaires aren’t the enemy. Change should be gradual. Sanders is dangerous. Black voters should trust centrists. In fact, black people should trust the very forces and people who are responsible for their mass incarceration, stop-and-frisk, and policies that directly harm their communities. It’s not an outright endorsement of Biden, but it might as well be. [UPDATE: And we see in the aftermath of his dropping out that it amounts to exactly that]. Self-correcting system.
Add this to the general nonstop media attacks on Sanders: he is a communist, an anti-Semite, a sexist, an outsider and on and on—culminating in pundit class losing their goddamn minds in the wake of Nevada. Not to mention the generations of gaslighting African Americans into believing that the party of the Klan and The Bomb is really the party of the New Deal and Civil Rights, and that staying on the safe Democrat plantation is their only choice. Don’t forget the exclusion of Tulsi Gabbard, now the only woman and the only person of color still running, as well as the only true antiwar voice. She met their threshold for inclusion in the debates, but they moved the goalposts and denied her anyway. Closed loop system.
So this really is an incredibly powerful cocktail to suppress dissent while leaving a footprint that is not so heavy handed as, say, tanks in the streets (though increasingly, these are there as well in the form of military hardware in local PDs and the already genocidal police targeting of black youth). But even all these levers of power are not always quite enough. And yet there are no tanks—yet. So what do you do?
Easy. You just cheat. Those of us who live in Massachusetts were particularly left scratching our heads on Tuesday. Huh? We expected to wake up to the news of a tossup between Sanders and Warren, and maybe Biden throwing in the towel. I mean sure, the Oldhead Theory—that older black voters saw Biden as a safe bet, skeptical of some radical white dude promising change. And the Obama coattail thing, though they have been mysteriously slow to attach, and didn’t work for any of the black candidates before now. And this might make sense in South Carolina, where this accounts for a large percentage of Democrat primary voters, or Alabama and Texas. But Massachusetts? Minnesota? Where there are hardly any black people. Just doesn’t make any sense. You know—things that make you go hmmmmm.
Lo and behold, some people really do still pay attention to the nitty gritty of this hopeless, crappy election system. TDMS research put out an analysis of the Massachusetts vote, which showed an eight and a half percent tilt toward Biden over Sanders between the exit poll data and the reported precinct vote count. By contrast, on the Republican side, the same analysis shows a virtually identical result. Vote counts match the exit polling computer model dead on, at less than 1%.
Now exit polls have long been considered the gold standard by international organizations to detect instances of election fraud, since they are considered so reliable. Think about it, you are telling a pollster what you just did, not some vague promise of what you might do, or what you think of this or that issue. It is not believable that people lie as a monolith. In fact, exit polling has been used to discredit foreign elections, even by US agencies.
And of course, the US has a haphazard patchwork of systems with little coordination, a heavy reliance on technology (machines the French government is trying to ban, for example), not paper ballots that virtually every other country in the world uses. I guess the US really is an exceptional country. So good luck trying to prove any of it, outside the smoking gun I mentioned earlier. Again, it’s not a court of law, and there is no way to prove it beyond a doubt. But like I said, that isn’t a strong enough argument to force people into voting when they feel robbed. I am fully convinced that they stole Massachusetts for Biden, and suspect similar shenanigans may have happened in Minnesota, maybe in Texas or other places.
But here, too, the larger systemic picture lays the groundwork. See, the real takeaway from the election 2000 debacle, the one that really counts, is the discrediting of exit polls as unreliable. This despite the fact that they are not only used as the gold standard as I said before, but that these same news organizations relied on them for years chiefly to predict (correctly) outcomes before the votes themselves were counted. In the aftermath of Florida 2000, Americans are now trained to believe the opposite of the truth and to live in a sort of Bizarro World where exit polls are unreliable and voting machines are, and such polls are only useful for demographic data and opinion splitting by different categories. Most Americans now think this is the main purpose of them, in fact, and in a lot of cases the raw data is very difficult to get.
This is just one more example of how powerful is the "we are free" mythology screws American voters. We are conditioned, gaslit and brainwashed to believe that the worst voting system on the planet is instead the crown jewel of the world’s greatest democracy, the envy of the world. And in the end all it takes is an occasional light thumb on the scale, only when all else fails, and only as heavy as needed to get the job done and not get caught. God bless America, right?
So what now? Who knows. The trouble is that Sanders is prone to doing exactly the wrong thing. He certainly did in 2016. What happens with all these kids, the incredible new enthusiasm for change, the belief that the power of the people can somehow give us hope and make our lives better? In 2016 it was left to dissipate while Sanders endorsed his own tormentor, kind of like George Bush and Al Gore shaking hands at the 2000 inauguration. Bone chilling.
And you know, chilling is the right word. What many of us have been saying for a long time is that there has to be another plan, an attempt to build off this energy and not let it get sucked back into the Great Graveyard of social movements. Democrats claim to want new voters, but do everything possible to alienate and abuse them. Biden even telegraphs that he is considering choosing a Republican for his Veep, for christ’s sake! Biden the force behind the Crime Bill, Biden who didn’t want his kids growing up in a ‘racial jungle,’ Biden the guy who praised Bush for invading Iraq. They think this guy can win by stealing white votes from the Republicans? Wake up, you jackass, you can’t win without the emerging black and brown vote coalition you dismiss and deride. And these new kids won’t make the same mistake twice. Why should they? And it’s not our fault on the left—we don’t own their votes or their minds. You just can’t browbeat people into voting when they feel there is nothing to hope for, and Biden is perhaps the least inspiring candidate since Mondale. It won’t matter what Sanders says, or the black churches or party elders say… that’s just not how it works. People don’t respond if you treat them as if they don’t have agency.
Oh and the chill thing. The whole processing of chilling out the heat of the moment, dousing the hope with cynicism and fears of Trump, is completely deliberate. Like some billionaire Gulliver pissing out the populist fire. People are meant to learn the important lesson. No you can’t have nice things. No you can’t hope for any real change. No you can’t take control of your lives and make them even a little bit better. Shut up and line up—behind the walking corpse, that is Joe Biden. He may be demented and reactionary and have no ideas, but he’s better than the other guy. Now go vote! They won’t. They will say f**k ‘em, and who will be surprised? It’s very depressing.
It is an important moment, and has been worth following. But hey, maybe we’ve wasted enough time on this shitshow. Look around: Julian Assange is still languishing in jail for revealing US war crimes; bombing in Afghanistan goes on unabated even before the ink is dry on the so-called peace deal. Meanwhile the CIA and all the creepy Special Forces and all the other little alphabet agencies are still slithering around the world doing the dirty work of empire, and workers and poor people are struggling and dying with no end in sight. That has to be our focus, and our emergency. Billions of lives are at stake.
Daniel Patrick Welch/Press TV