Sell Us a Story To Elect George Orwell Bush in 2004


by Paul Street

Paul (pstreet@cul-chicago.org) is a social policy researcher in Chicago, Illinois. He is the author of “More Than Entertainment: Neal Gabler’s Life the Movie and the Illusions of Post-Ideological Society,” Monthly Review (February 2000): 58-62.

This is the last section of a long essay published on ZNet


Jefferson’s Wolves: 2004 and Beyond

Thanks to the horror that is the Bush administration, it goes almost without saying that progressives have no choice but to work for a presidential candidate who can defeat the Cowboy in 2004. Faced with a real-life presidency that threatens to set humanity back decades in the struggle for peace and justice, we have no business launching third- and fourth-party candidacies or refusing to support any of the Democratic candidates but Kucinich (certainly the best in the field from any minimally left moral and political perspective). The differences between, say, a Dean or a Kerrey or a Clark and a Bush are nowhere near as great as they ought or need to be, but they are not insignificant within the currently dominant system of deeply concentrated economic and political power, where one “small” decision in Washington DC can produce mass misery at home and/or abroad.

Having said that, let it also be said that we must also look beyond 2004, towards the creation of a new politics in America: a genuinely popular one where money, image, corporate power and the aristocratic crafting of mass consent and apathy are not permitted to so easily trump democratic principles and sentiments, including basic respect for fact over fiction. Only in such a political milieu would the appalling presidential record recounted at the beginning of this essay mean that we can confidently proclaim “Bush’s days” as “numbered.” In an age when a morally illiterate, hyper-narcissistic, and blood-soaked Hollywood action hero can use his accumulated financial and related mass-cultural celebrity capital to become the freely elected Governor of a key and massive state like California, all bets are off on whether democratic common sense can ever hold the day again in the United States.

Much of what needs to be changed is structural in nature: the removal of private money from public elections, the granting of free media time to candidates, the introduction of proportional representation in legislative races (so that 20 percent of the vote might translate into 20 percent of the representatives), the introduction of instant run-off procedures in the presidential race (so that a third-party left candidate might run without fear of thereby throwing the reigns of monumental domestic and global power to a dangerous gang of monsters like the Bush Team), the abolition of the Electoral College (without whose democracy-diluting role Bush would not have been “elected” in 2000), the repeal of felony disenfranchisement laws (whose savage abuse in Republican-controlled Florida also cost Gore the presidential race of 2000) and the like.

Another part of what needs to be changed, however, is a matter of popular attitude and sentiment. Reflecting decades of relentless commercial and mass-cultural carpet bombing, ordinary Americans have an insufficient degree of respect for their own moral, intellectual and political capacities. They exhibit a shockingly over-easy willingness to see politics as a once-every-four-years (or once-every-1460 day) proposition and to surrender their claim - their hard-fought birthright, really - to a regular, engaged, informed presence at the heart and soul of the polity. These are dangerous habits, when the big-money powers that be are hard at work every day “taking the risk out of democracy” (to use [Alex] Carey’s excellent phrase), with the help of morally vapid experts in mass thought-control - veritable modern day Orwellians - like Norquist [leading Republican political strategist and regressive tax policy advocate Grover Norquist] and Rapaille [G. Clotaire Rapaille, psychological consumer researcher for clients like Seagram, Proctor and Gamble, and Ford] and their revolting ilk.

In the end, however, it’s up to the American people. It is a useful time, perhaps, to recall Thomas Jefferson’s prophetic comment to Edward Carrington from Paris in the late 1780s. “If once the people become inattentive to the public affairs,” Jefferson warned, “you and I and Congress and Assemblies and Judges shall all become wolves,” pillaging the public purse and sickening the republic with selfish, aristocratic impunity (in Richard Hofstader, The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It [New York, NY: Vintage, 1967, reprint of 1948 edition], p.33).

We’re dealing with an especially bad pack of such wolves today. They are roaming the corridors of domestic and global high-state power, with tragic consequences at home and abroad. We cannot be satisfied just to send the current Texan-led pack scurrying from the White House in 2004. Jefferson’s wolves will only return again and again, in more sheepish clothing perhaps, unless and until the people become truly “attentive to the public affairs” and empowered in the execution of their public desires.