Barry’s Blog # 419: A Mythologist Looks at the Election of 2024, Part One

Readers of this blog may recall that I analyzed the two previous Presidential elections from a radical and mythological perspective. You can read the 2016 series here and the 2020 series here. Or perhaps after several years of unending stress, you really don’t want to hear any of this; I can’t blame you. But we can’t tell a new story until we have digested and fully rejected the old one.

From 2016:

It is clear that extraordinarily large numbers of people either chose not to vote, or voted against or what they perceived as the corruption, elitist arrogance, irrelevance and/or incompetence of a Democratic Party symbolized by Hillary Clinton, whose essential messages were limited to I’m more of Obama and I’m not Trumpus.

Afterwards, Bernie Sanders pointed out the obvious:

You cannot be a party which on one hand says we’re in favor of working people, we’re in favor of the needs of young people but we don’t quite have the courage to take on Wall Street and the billionaire class…People do not believe that. You’ve got to decide which side you’re on.

For 25 years the Clintons had led the Democratic Party into neoliberalism, militarism, increased inequality and betrayal of working people. The Democratic National Committee did everything possible to marginalize Sanders. And it deliberately fueled Trumpus’s rise to power with its self-described “pied piper” strategy.

Decades of lies have had their effect. With these unappetizing choices, some one hundred million Americans apparently decided that the lesser of two evils is still evil and stayed home. If “Did Not Vote” had been a candidate, it would have won in a landslide.

This is nothing new; it is a long-term trend that began in the late 1960s (only briefly impacted by Obama), that the Republicans have consistently manipulated, and which the Democrats have consistently accepted as the price of selling their souls to Wall Street.

This was the choice the election offered: management of a broken system, or replacing it. Trumpus of course did nothing of the kind, but this is what people perceived, and perception is everything. In this context, how can we can judge those who refuse to participate?

When educated (not propagandized) people vote, they vote in favor of their self-interest, not the pseudo-interests fed to them by Fox or CNN. Noam Chomsky teaches about two views of democracy, exemplified by Aristotle and James Madison. Both agreed that if we have full democracy, the poor will eventually unite and expropriate the property of the rich. Aristotle’s solution was to reduce inequality. Madison, articulating the basic contradiction of American mythology, argued that the solution was to reduce democracy. This is why elites of both parties are comfortable with our absurdly low participation levels.

A Harvard study ranked the U.S. electoral system as the worst in the developed world. But let’s not be too hasty to blame the Republicans. Julian Assange, Greg Palast, Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman convincingly demonstrated that in the 2016 primaries the DNC was able to manipulate the vote, all to the detriment of the Sanders campaign. “In State after state”, claims Jonathan Simon, author of Code Red: Computerized Election Theft and the New American Century, “the vote counts were more in favor of Clinton than the exit polls, which were more in favor of Bernie Sanders.” In one of the worst examples, Sanders won every Massachusetts precinct that used hand-counted paper ballots but lost all the ones with electronic voting machines.

Much of my writing asserts that this is one of those times in American history when great holes appear in the façades of our myths. When they do, the oligarchs who most profit from its continuation go to extreme lengths to shore up those holes and re-invigorate our sense of innocence, and the tools they deliberately utilize are the time-honored themes of American myth. It’s increasingly obvious that the old story no longer fits, but that we have yet to imagine the new story. Until we do, they’ll be able to manipulate us.

But what does it mean in practical terms to say this? To me, it means that as culture begins to collapse, its institutions – all of them – collapse as well. And this means that institutions that may have evolved over very long periods of time to bring out the best in people – their higher selves, so to speak – now function to maximize the worst in us. Others, such as the police, the military and the Electoral College, were deliberately designed to do this.

You and I were nauseated at the thought of this charlatan Trumpus and his nouveau-riche gaudiness crashing the refined atmosphere of the White House, nailing his World Wrestling Federation awards on the wall of the East Wing, partying with anti-Semites. Yes, and our reaction is a function of our class privilege and our innocent expectations. This bears regular repetition. His brand is different from Obama’s or Clinton’s or Joe Biden’s, but they are all media brands, and media have only one purpose: to sell you to advertisers. It is the image of Trumpus that he and his people have expertly created out of mud, like a golem, which the mainstream media (MSM), no less than Fox, obediently fed to us.

From 2020:

All this optimism, all this denial, all this obsession with blaming Trumpus for our ills, all this unwillingness to confront deeper issues is happening within the broader context of the myth of American innocence.

We’ll talk about the Democrats soon. But there is no longer any doubt whatsoever that the Republican Party is comprised entirely of career criminals, con men and outright sociopaths. Republican governors and secretaries of state ruthlessly, absolutely control the entire election process, including registration and access to voting, in half of the states. These are the people whose operatives actually “count” the votes, and we can assume that they will do everything possible, legal or illegal, to influence the results, exactly as they did four (and eight) years ago.

This culture has vomited Trumpus up to be our symbolic King. But he did not cause any of our problems. He simply embodies them and mirrors them back for all of us. Trumpus is us, and as long as we do not collectively admit this and refuse to confront our racist and violent national character, we deserve him.

The U.S. has the lowest turnout rate in the world because so few of us see any significant differences between the two major parties. And the twin curses of voter suppression and computer fraud have ensured that millions of votes that are cast are not counted. That is reality. But the mystery is why the Democrats have done so little about it through the last five election cycles.

Here’s another mystery. What does it say about the public’s appreciation of the Democrats that, with the most profoundly unpopular and deeply reviled president in U.S. history, it took a pandemic with a half million dead and an economic depression with forty million unemployed to finally push Biden’s poll numbers past those of Trumpus?

Here’s another one: Michael Bloomberg spent nearly a billion dollars attacking Sanders. Can you imagine the good that money would have done had he spent it registering voters?

Here’s another one: Democrats approve of the CIA more than Republicans Do.

And another: Do the Democrats really care about winning?

I hope I’m wrong. May the future bring us something better than this. We deserve better, or so we’d like to think. But here I want to present some mythological and psychological speculations.

What exactly are these two old white guys contending for? Liberals lament that the system is dysfunctional or broken, while radicals will argue that it has been doing quite well in terms of its actual functions of maintaining military empire abroad and redistributing wealth upwards at home. As a mythologist, I see both points of view, and I suggest that the myth of American innocence holds it all together.

One aspect of what Joseph Campbell called our demythologized world, especially in America, is that the distinctions between religion, politics and entertainment have collapsed (as I wrote this, Trumpus sat in the Oval Office and endorsed a brand of beans. You can’t make this stuff up). This is perhaps because all three of these areas of public life are the realm of the con man’s main interests: making money and aggrandizing the self. For more on this American archetype, read my essay The Con-Man.

Please understand that nearly anything spoken for the public by anyone at that level of power has been carefully vetted in front of focus groups and edited precisely to fit the perceived needs of a very specific audience. If in the Age of Trumpus (or for the past several election cycles) you haven’t noticed this, you haven’t been paying attention. But it began long before this particular con man entered the White House.

Trumpus and Biden (and everyone around them, including the entire press corps) know very well that every president since Harry Truman has been essentially a spokesperson for interests far more powerful than he; a “master of ceremonies” in the lesser sense; a salesman for the myth and the empire. He certainly is not its ruler. Caitlyn Johnstone writes:

…it’s a testament to the power of media echo chambers that for the most part they remain just as wrong about him as they were four years ago…All sides pretended that Trump was a radical deviation from the norm, and so did Trump, when all he actually did throughout his entire time in office was protect the status quo just like his predecessors did.

Read Part Two here.

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1 Response to Barry’s Blog # 419: A Mythologist Looks at the Election of 2024, Part One

  1. pollyhowells says:

    Barry, just read this through.  I’m afraid u r right.  Let’s talk some time.  xo Polly

    Sent from my iPhone


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