Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Elections: The Life Blood of Democracy?

Elections: The Life Blood of Democracy?
Peter Schultz

            Americans like to think that elections are the life blood of US democracy. So many believe that not only is voting a right but that it is also a duty, a duty that only the lazy, the ignorant, or the unpatriotic fail to uphold. Oh, would that it were so.

           Elections, from viewpoint of politicians, are dangerous and, hence, must be controlled, manipulated, even at times corrupted. This danger is present all the time but it is especially great when there is widespread dissatisfaction, even anger and rage among the people, the electorate. And in times of popular unrest, dissatisfaction, and anger, politicians, especially incumbents and more especially yet the most established, will do whatever they have to do to try to ensure that the outcome of an election does not harm them by bringing into power those who may be called “insurgents.”

            So, whatever is happening now in America’s political scene is being managed or directed by the powers that be in the Republican and Democratic parties. As there are a lot of people seeking the Democratic nomination for president, this is something that the party is encouraging, is directing insofar as it can do so. Why would they do this? Control. An attempt to control who gets the nomination so they can try to control the outcome of the election. The same thing is true of the Republicans. As they are standing behind Trump, it is because they deem this strategy the most advantageous for their chances in upcoming 2020 elections.

            Do their strategies always succeed? Of course not. The Democrats thought they had things under control in 2016 but they did not and Trump ended up president. The Republicans thought they had things under control in 1992 but they did not and Clinton ended up president. But while their strategies don’t always succeed they are motivated by the same goal, to preserve their power within their party and, secondly, in the federal government.

            It doesn’t take too much imagination to notice that ensuring their power does not mean that these politicians need to win every election. In fact, it is pretty clear that losing elections often helps to preserve the power of incumbents, especially of the firmly established incumbents. In 1912, the Republican Party made a decision to reject Teddy Roosevelt as their nominee because he was too radical. So they went with the incumbent president, William Howard Taft, pretty much being assure that they would lose the election, which they did to Woodrow Wilson. But by losing, the mainstream Republicans kept control the Republican Party and bided their time until they could, once again, win, which happened in 1920.

            Personally, I believe that the Democrats preferred to lose the 1972 presidential election because McGovern was far too radical for the mainstream Democrats. And not only did McGovern lose but he lost big, so big that it allowed the mainstream Democrats to change the rules governing the selection of presidential candidates so the party would be able to control that selection. This is where the so-called “super delegates” came from and they worked as they were suppose to work in ensuring that Hillary Clinton would be the nominee in 2016.

            I also think a very good case can be made that in 1968 LBJ preferred Nixon to Humphrey as his successor. Why? Well, because LBJ was committed to the war in Vietnam and he knew that Nixon was also and would prosecute that war vigorously. But he also knew that the most significant dissent was occurring in the Democratic and not the Republican Party. Those insurgents were most unlike LBJ politically and he saw them as a threat to mainstream Democrats and to mainstream Democratic thinking. Hence, to preserve the status quo in the Democratic Party, LBJ bowed out voluntarily. Also, by bowing out to “work for peace” in Vietnam, Johnson tried to displace the other peace movement, a movement that contained some radicals and was based on some non-traditional American values. And, of course, LBJ garnered the praise he so lusted after, pretending to be a statesman doing what was best for the country. In that, he was dead wrong but very few seemed to notice.

            So elections are not the life blood of US democracy insofar as they are controlled, directed, and managed by the elites of our two most important parties, the Democrats and the Republicans. Because if the two parties’ strategies regarding their nominees for president are successful, there is no democracy because there is no real choice. By controlling the nominees, the two parties have decided the election before any votes are cast and after the votes have been counted.

            But it is or seems to be a good show, especially with the mainstream media playing its part in hyping elections as “crucial,” as “existentially significant,” or as “turning points.” In fact, most of our elections are more smoke and mirrors than anything else. And, of course, the people realize this which is why turnout is mediocre at best. Little changes after our elections which is of course not only fine with mainstream Republicans and Democrats but is their intention.

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