I acknowledge that I might get some flack for this piece. OK – I hope to get some flack, to stimulate some real thinking – some mythological thinking on the issue of the Presidential election. Our first responsibility as mythological thinkers is to have discrimination; to take a step back and perceive the real stories that are being played out in our culture, before we can begin to offer new ones.
Since the convention speeches by Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton and the President himself, countless well-meaning people have used social media to glowingly announce their unwavering support for the man. At worst, they enumerate the evils of a Romney administration to invoke the old “lesser of two evils” argument. At best, they view him as having the best of intentions but hamstrung by a recalcitrant Congress intent only upon defeating him. Such writers include many progressives, such as Tom Hayden, Michael Eric Dyson, Caroline Casey, Michael Moore, Greg Palast and Ira Chernus, who predicts that Obama’s re-election would open up“… a narrative that we can wholeheartedly embrace into the center of mainstream political discourse: it’s selfish individualism versus the common good.”
Much of their arguments, however, seem muddled. The solidly progressive Palast recently acknowledged that Goldman Sachs and most of the other investment bankers responsible for the financial crash (none of whose leaders have gone to jail) supported Obama in 2008 and still do. He then, however, went on to argue that the election was “between the billionaires and the rest of us.” I think he would have been more accurate had he said that it was between billionaires we despise (Big Oil, Big “Defense,” etc.) and billionaires we merely dislike intensely (Finance, Pharmaceuticals, Insurance, etc.)
Other progressives, such as Glenn Ford of the Black Agenda Report, refer to Obama as merely the “smarter of two evils.” He adds that “The anti-war movement seems largely to oppose only Republican wars.” Chris Hedges argues that Obama is merely a new “brand,” designed to pacify the public with convincing fantasies while business continues as usual: “Brand Obama does not threaten the core of the corporate state any more than did Brand George W. Bush.”
I’m not writing this post to convince anyone to vote Democratic or third party or to not vote at all, but rather to think.
First of all, if you reside in California or any other safely “blue” state (or, for that matter, in a safely “red” state), know that that convincing your neighbors to vote Democratic is basically a waste of time. If you’re serious, then it would be better to put your money, time and body where your mouth is; go to a contested state and work for the Democrats.
Second: The reality of voter disenfranchisement and election fraud by the Republicans is so absolutely massive that it utterly overwhelms any discussion of issues or platforms. To learn more, go to www.electionsatrisk.org. And the fact that the Democrats have not made this issue their main concern should make anyone wonder what their real intentions are. Again, if you’re serious, go there and work for change.
Third: It seems clear to me, however, that the system is broken, for reasons far too numerous to mention here. No one rises to serious, well-funded candidacy, least of all a Black person, without being completely vetted by the power brokers. Others (Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich) who slip past the gatekeepers are easily marginalized.
Given that opinion, the election and any governance at the federal level occur within the realm of realpolitik: Don’t listen to what they say or promise, don’t even look at what they appear to be trying to accomplish. Look at what they actually do; look at whom they appoint to positions of real power. Please understand that anything spoken for the public by someone – anyone – at that level of power has been carefully vetted in front of multiple focus groups and edited precisely to fit the perceived needs of a very specific audience so as to manipulate its views of the politician.
And, in Obama’s defense, consider that seven former godfathers of a fifty billion dollar crime syndicate known for assassinating public figures – the CIA – very publicly warned him in 2010 not to probe too deeply into allegations of prisoner abuse by that same gang. Who, you might ask, is really in charge here?
So I’m not going to list Obama’s positives and negatives. You’ve probably already decided what to do. I want to encourage you to ask the kinds of questions that might move your thinking from simplistic political discourse into mythological thinking, and move your actions in a more grounded direction.
What is the current state of our myth of innocence? Who embodies it? Do their words or images evoke your longing? How? Do liberals as well as conservatives exploit our fear of the Other for their own ends?
Where are cracks in the myth showing up? Does Obama have a role in reviving the myth? Or does he have a role, despite many of his policies, in opening up new spaces for a progressive discourse?
What aspects of yourself, actual or idealized, cynical or innocent, do you project upon the man? Does he appear to be an archetypal hero to you? What does that really mean?
I am hoping that considering such questions will influence whether or not you decide to support him – and if you do, not simply to preach to the choir on Facebook, but to send money or work for him.
Such decisions should be made with eyes wide open, not on the basis of unrealistic, idealistic projections that merely reinforce our own sense of innocence. What presidents do, they do in our name.