Knee Deep in Capital: Another Circus Election Year
As another election year heats up here in the United States, it may be important to ask ourselves what exactly this electoral process in our so-called democracy is really about.
In the midst, still, of an economic crisis comparing to the great depression, we have seen the disgust amongst ordinary people come alive in protest – directed both toward the inner workings of our capitalist system and the political players that both work within, and for, this capitalist system. The occupy protests are a prime indicator that the people are fed up with concentrated wealth running the show, and will not sit aside and be taken advantage of any longer. That being said, what exactly do these presidential elections offer the regular working class person that might or might not be engaged in these occupy protests?
A record $5.3 billion was spent amongst the candidates during the 2008 election1. The 2012 election doesn’t look to be differing, as Barack Obama has already raised roughly $86 million while Mitt Romney, one of the leading Republican candidates, has already raised roughly $32 million2. These numbers are so large that they may not have any effect, so let’s put this in perspective. The federal poverty line for a family of four in the United States is $22, 3503. There are 46.2 million people living below the poverty line in this country4. This is keeping in mind that the federal poverty level is so unjustly low that it can hardly be taken seriously.
To complement the astronomical amount of money being raised and spent in these campaigns, is the amount of money these candidates already make (which directly reflects the values and constituency that they represent). Mitt Romney is reported to be worth between $85 and $264 million. Newt Gingrich is worth somewhere between $7 and $31 million. Barack Obama, our current president of “the people,” is reported to be worth somewhere between $2.8 and $11.8 million5.
What does this mean for the average person? Simply that we are living according to a political system and a group of leaders that represent a particular portion of our society: the uber rich. Have we ever seen a president from the working class? How about a president from a public university, or from outside the university system altogether? Have we ever had a president that worked primarily as a janitor, miner, farmer, day laborer, server, stripper, prostitute, roofer, painter, or any other such profession? We haven’t and likely never will. This is a political system that is bought and sold to the highest bidders, which makes certain that those who own and run the political system are always from outside and above the actual people.
It is important to ask what effect this has on a political and social system that claims to be a democratic one. If we understand democracy to be the rule of the “demos,” or the rule of the people, then true concepts of democracy, equality, liberty, and justice seem almost laughable. Our political system is run and controlled by big money, even without considering the influence of lobbying, campaign finance, and all the other ways in which money taints and directs our political system. If we want to start working toward a more democratic society, one that actually represents ourselves as equals in this country, then we should probably begin to forget about these elections, which primarily benefit the players involved, and that we (as individuals) have little to no effect on.
- Original Romney Photo Courtesy of Bain Capital
SUGGESTED READING: Dime's Worth of Difference
(Summary from the Publisher’s website)
Why the Democrats lost to Bush and why it likely won’t matter even if they somehow win back the White House and Congress. Essays by Alexander Cockburn, Jeffrey St. Clair, JoAnn Wypijewski, Vijay Prashad, Gabriel Kolko and more.