Is a constitutional amendment or a real third-party candidate the silver bullet that Americans need next year, asks Eric Walberg
voters now have a clear view of who they can vote for next year, with
Barack Obama as the Democrats' certain candidate and Mitt Romney as the
Republicans'. Both candidates offer much the same prescriptions for the
multiple crises facing their country -- more war and military spending,
lower taxes (certainly no big hike for the rich), more bank bailouts,
trickle-down economics for the unemployed and the disintegrating
If Barack and Mitt are the best the political elite
can come up with, we can only conclude that the entire American ruling
class is suffering from acute paranoid schizophrenia -- fearing
their beds, shedding tears over the odd child hit by a stray bullet in,
say, Syria, while
joyously bombing hapless Afghans, Iraqs and Libyans into the Stone Age,
wiping out hundreds of thousands in the process.
Saturday that the US now must tackle its "greatest challenge as a
nation" -- rebuilding a weak economy and creating jobs -- with the "same
urgency and unity that our troops brought to their fight". More like:
with the "same cold-blooded disrespect for human life ..." Is it
possible Obama will promote a Swift-like "modest proposal" to
unemployment, and exhort Americans to eat their children?
overwhelming evidence that the chaos and destruction the US brings the
world has induced only hate and disgust for America and its values, he
preened himself for helping murder Gaddafi and for pretending to
withdraw US troops from Iraq: "This week, we had two powerful reminders of how we've renewed American leadership in the
Of course, there is an explanation for this raving. The
chaos is caused by the logic of profit in the economy, and the rhetoric
-- by the need to control the political process to ensure profit's
uninterrupted flow. But Obama's fine rhetoric is not even convincing
Americans anymore, as Occupy Wall Street
and demonstrations across the country show. As for Congress; just 6 per
cent of registered voters think sitting members deserve re-election --
the lowest percentage since CBS News Polls began 20 years ago.
What is the poor -- literally, at this point -- voter to do? There are stirrings, even in the ruling class. Warren
Buffett is spreading a chain letter calling on citizens to demand "a
constitutional amendment which would make all sitting members of
Congress ineligible for re-election anytime there is a deficit of more
than 3 per cent of GDP." If only it were that simple.
William Cook puts it, "Representatives no
longer serve the citizen seeking their consent to govern, they are
servants of the corporations and lobbies that control the economic
system. Presidents no longer lead, they are the obedient lackeys of
their corporate overseers." If Buffett's amendment passed, it would
merely bring in another crop of time-servers, with no noticeable effect
except higher unemployment and more poverty.
Oblivious to the
obvious, Libertarian Ron Paul is battling it out with the Mitts in
Republican cuckoo-land to slash both the budget deficit and
taxes. At least Paul wants less war. He is determined to end what he
calls the "welfare-warfare state", undeterred by the plight of the
record 46 million Americans on food stamps (whose welfare expenditures
are a crucial stimulus to local economies), and the fact that his very
own campaign manager in 2008 died of pneumonia in 2011 from lack of
Then there is the perennial Ralph Nader, who
bowing out from a full-scale campaign so far, and working with left
Democrats to field primary challengers to Obama in the desperate hope to
move him to the left.
What about a third-party/ independent
presidential campaign? The Green Party always fields someone, and Nader
ran many times in the past as both the Green candidate and as an
independent. There is a new such campaign this year -- an Internet
campaign called Americans Elect, intending to nominate “a competitive,
nonpartisan ticket” that “answers directly to voters". A Republican must
team up with a Democrat. Give me a break.
It is impossible for
such a dark horse to actually win, given the Republicrat control of the
media and corporate financing of elections. However, American
third-partiers, or rather non-partiers, have a venerable history in the
US. Theodore Roosevelt (Progressive Bull Moose) captured 27 per cent of
the vote in 1912, and Progressive Robert La Follette --
27 per cent in 1924. Billionaire Ross Perot created his own Reform
Party, running on a confusing mix of balanced budget, war on drugs, gun
control, trade protectionism and environmentalism, to gain almost 20 per
cent of the vote in 1992.
If, say, the Green candidate
miraculously takes off, s/he will at best be a spoiler, like Republican
Party-pooper Roosevelt in 1912 (allowing Democrat Woodrow Wilson to
win), Ross Perot in 1992 (allowing Democrat Bill Clinton to win) and
possibly Nader in 2000, whose 2.74 per cent of the vote might have been
the cause of Al Gore's loss to George W Bush.
Whichever Republicrat takes over in January 2013
will continue the failed policies of yesteryear as the US people
continue to sink into poverty. But the end is already in sight, as the
American long spring continues to gain momentum, both on the ground and
in the ether. Ipads can distract from reality, but they are also a
powerful tool to fight it, as
Egyptians found out this January.
bottom line is, of course, to dismantle the "reality of corporate
control", as Cook puts it. He rightly argues that "the rights of
citizens to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness require the
government to ensure these rights", which means universal health care,
freedom from want; in short, a government that serves the people, not
the corporations. While this may sound trite, it is the stark truth.
"Rights before privilege."
There is strong US precedent for this.
In 1944, shortly before he died, president Franklin Roosevelt presented
Congress with a new Bill of Rights, which included “the right to
adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness,
accident, and unemployment”, as well as farmers’ and businessmen's
rights “to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition by
monopolies”. Of course, Congress being Congress, it dismissed out of
hand this parting
gift of FDR.
Another stark truth is that real change in America
requires the defeat of America in its imperial wars. This uniquely
happened in 1975, when the last helicopters carried panicked remnants of
the US puppet regime in Saigon
to safety. It resulted in a shift towards détente, exposure of CIA
black-ops, limits on US promotion of regime-change and assassination,
and on the presidential right to launch undeclared war. Alas, this
reversal was short-lived. Memories are short. Rhetoric (then, it was the
folksy Reagan) and the ease of spinning circles around do-nothing
Congress (a truly worthy whipping boy) have brought us to the current
Obama's attempts to paint Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya
as triumphs of "American leadership" ring hollow as the economy
continues to sink under the weight of its military might. In 1944,
America was on top of the world,
and FDR's wistful reminder of the dark 1930s was easily brushed
aside. His vice president from 1941-44, Henry Wallace, ran as a
Progressive Party candidate in 1948 largely on FDR's wish list, but his
third-party campaign of racial equality and socialism was greeted by
boycotts and rotten eggs, and netted him only 2.4 per cent of the vote. America's long journey into the imperial wilderness had begun in earnest.
resuscitate FDR's dashed dreams today means acknowledging, even
welcoming, defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan, as their peoples throw off
their American shackles. Any thought that Libya will save the Yanks'
bacon is a pipedream. The smoke of civil war there will remain in the
air for a long time to come, as a constant reminder of the follies of
such imperial games.
The American pacifist Gene Sharp, author of Waging Nonviolent Struggle: 20th Century Practice and 21st Century Potential (2005), is credited with ushering in the so-called Coloured Revolutions in countries as disparate as
Yugoslavia and Egypt during the past two decades. Ahmed Maher, one of the founders of the April 6
Youth Movement that sparked the Egyptian revolution, was inspired by
Sharp, and is returning the favour by advising “our brothers”, the
Occupy Wall Streeters, on Twitter. It is a nice touch that Sharp's
techniques for facing down police states (Congress be damned) are now
being turned on the American police state itself, as the “99 per cent”
of Americans try to pick up where FDR's Bill of Rights left off.