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A Rigged Game And The Illusion of Democracy

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 29/02/2016 Mike DeLeonardis

"The problem of power is how to achieve its responsible use rather than its irresponsible and indulgent use; of how to get men of power to live for the public rather than off the public." -- John F Kennedy

The abdication of our electoral process to Big Business, (e.g. Big Banks, Energy, Pharma, etc.), is undeniable. And, so it is, since the advent of NAFTA and the impending passage of the TPP, that the sovereignty of the corporate nation state is not up for argument.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the passage of these trade agreements have their roots in campaign finance, because of the immense lobbying power large corporations have over campaign coffers. In short, campaign finance embodies the notion that those in control of the money spigot rule the roost. Coupling that with the ungodly amount of time our elected officials spend on fundraising; might leave you wondering how in the hell anybody in office can find the time to appropriately analyze and discuss real issues that affect real people? Not to refute the presumption that most folks come to Congress with conviction and good intentions. But, you can't deny that if so, end up succumbing to the corporate money machine after being softened up and burned out by the unrelenting schedule of campaign fundraising. Is that any way to run a government? Makes you wonder who's really in control.

The fallout for the regular guy on the street is the reduction to mere consumers who are continually forced into waving their constitutional rights by signing off on arbitration clauses for access to goods and services. But, what do we care? After years of constant bombardment by sound bytes and slogans, we've become too entranced by the total mind control of planned induced obsolescence and keeping up with the Joneses. I'm afraid we've evolved into nothing more than chronic enablers of a Free Market system that predates back upon us by way of a stranglehold on the political process through campaign finance.

Do we really know which way is up anymore? Or, are we so enamored with brand names and manufactured images that we turn a blind eye to the backroom dealings and collusion among the power brokers? Surely it's gotta be more of a tribal thing than the art of concealment. That's one of the main reasons why these scumbags get away with what they do. Because there's enough of their cohorts out there to defend their garbage by fostering the charade. Will we ever move beyond playing games?

So, allow me to retort on the quip Hillary Clinton made way back when, during the last Democratic debate and is now trying to capitalize on, "I am not a single issue candidate and I do not believe we live in a single issue country." Indeed! That remark has all the trappings of an obvious rhetorical ploy by Clinton to gain traction by implicitly portraying herself as the pragmatist "who gets things done" vs. a myopic, quixotic flash in the pan. Now, who didn't see that coming? Well... that's politics. However, as Michelle Alexander aptly noted:
"When politicians start telling you that it is "unrealistic" to support candidates who want to build a movement for greater equality, fair wages, universal healthcare, and an end to corporate control of our political system, it's probably best to leave the room."

So regarding this realist vs. idealist thing... Bernie's indelible efforts to address the systemic nature of money in politics has quite naturally brought the gestalt of campaign finance to the fore. Meaning that there's a big difference between harping on a single issue and getting at the root of how money has corrupted our political process and the way it has permeated the entire being of the American, nay, the global economic system. So, campaign finance is an issue of existential importance. Because, campaign finance quite literally bares on almost every aspect of modern life, from a livable wage for all, reliable and affordable single payer healthcare... for all, to having a genuine free and impartial press. And, it absolutely bares on the ability to tackle other existential issues such as climate change by the sheer nature of being able to analyze the real facts, act without bias and, do so swiftly and decisively.

In the state of today's political-economic system, the money changers have become so integrated into the political process as to have supplanted the interests of regular voters. That speaks to the issue of why campaign finance has energized younger voters. Being the first generation projected to have a decrease standard of living relative to their predecessors, they're in a better position to appreciate the systemic nature of a corrupt campaign system. And now that primary season is shifting into overdrive, we must be asking ourselves where we want the conduit of power to flow, to the establishment or to the change agents?

Mapping out the negative effects of our current campaign finance system would be enough to fill quite a number of thick volumes. But, for the sake of brevity, we might be able to use a simple conceptualized framework to demonstrate how its effects reverberate throughout all the major sectors of our economy. So, the figure below (A "Rigged Economy": How Capitalism Shapes the Political Landscape and the Architecture of Every Sector of Society) illustrates the overall mechanics of the process.

2016-02-26-1456496988-4726303-Capitalism.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2016-02-26-1456496988-4726303-Capitalism.jpg

The above diagram illustrates how our Campaign Finance sustains itself and, metastasizes throughout the fabric of our political-economic system. In summary: Campaign Finance by large corporate donors coaxes political patronage by fueling political campaigns because, those elected officials who are the beneficiaries, kick back contracts, subsidies and regulatory policies (deregulation) favorable to their donors. And, as indicated, this also translates into corporate heads becoming political appointees to strategic positions within government. Typical reciprocity: "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" kinda thing. First grader stuff, yeah?

That's the basic interplay between "Capitalism" and "Politics" and, it works like a classic positive feedback loop. That is, it's a continuous self sustaining cycle or driving wheel between Big Corp. and the Political Establishment. And, it's this process that starts a chain reaction that evolves as it cascades throughout the fabric of society culminating into the "Privatization & Consolidation" of all major sectors which, quite naturally, reflects the "Ultimate Goal of Capitalism" ("Profit & Growth"). What's left? Huge Hegemonic Multinational Corporate Nation States.

The agenda of Big Corp. infiltrates the fabric of our society by two means: 1) Directly via investment into a particular sector and; 2) Indirectly via government funding influenced by large strategic donations by corporations to select Congressional Committee members, such as a committee chair (for example: Lamar Smith, House Science Committee Chairman). Now, wouldn't you think that a politician who gets substantial campaign donations from a particular group or corporation would, some how, be influenced by those donations? Maybe conflicted, as in conflict of interest? Anyway, let's imagine that, in fact, does take place. Then, what this all boils down to is a corporate buyout of our political and economic system. What you're left with are a few large multinational corporations with complete control of their sector of influence in a global economy. They are sovereign in their own right and have actually gained the upper hand over traditional nation states in multinational trade pacts. Take Trans-Canada's law suit against the US government over rejection of the Key Stone Pipeline filed under the auspices of NAFTA as a prime example.

And, as far as I know, multinational corporations don't provide for fundamental human rights like freedom of speech, privacy, due process, etc. Not to mention the aforementioned fact that corporate nation states can challenge the sovereignty of traditional nation states. An ironic twist of fate. Orwell's "Big Brother" isn't born out of Big Government but, rather is the legacy of deregulation... the after-affects of Reaganomics, whom I might point out was at the apex of his popularity in 1984. But, Wait! Wasn't the Clinton era also known for deregulation and merger mania... of banks, media?

So, the above figure is an illustration of the fundamental mechanics of Steady State Capitalism. However, the term "Steady State Capitalism" is an oxymoron. Because, Capitalism by the very nature of its central dogma of eternal expansion, is inherently unsustainable. Why? Simple. The Earth is a closed system and thus is subject to its own limitations. And, in the context of biology, the sustainability of higher life forms, is limited by the Carbon Cycle. Remember Bill Clinton's famous "It's the Economy Stupid" from the mid 90's? No kohai. I'm sorry. It's the Carbon Cycle Stupid! That is, there's a limit to how big you gonna git because, in the final analysis, it's the biosphere that places the limits on sustainability.

What do I mean? Well... we humans have actually passed, the biological limits of sustainability for all carbon based life forms on planet earth. And, the engine or impulse driving us over the cliff of imminent demise starts at the level of money in politics. And, Campaign Finance is the epitome of money in politics. Hence the conundrum of the gestalt; can you explicitly determine its undisputable origin? Or is it a matter of rhetoric? Chicken or the egg? Regardless of where you choose to begin, the integrated nature of campaign finance and of climate change are similar with regard to exemplifying amalgams who's cascading aftereffects behave exponentially and, so share a common thread of existential importance. Enough said?

I am of the common perception that of late the right side of the aisle has become so extreme in their views within the last decade, as to have become detached from reality. And the gridlock they have imbued into the political process epitomizes how money in politics has corrupted and paralyzed the legislature. In all fairness, historical examples of obstructionism may be drawn from both parties. But, Antonin Scalia's body, for example, was barely cold before there were pledges by Mitch McConnel et. al. to block any nominee put forth by the Obama administration. Long gone are the days when Congress acted as a check to Presidential power. As the Congress has proven time and again; their current mo. is now COTUS Interuptus by day and Political Foreplay to corporate sugar daddies by night. And, what's the reasoning behind this "corporations are people" thing again? If that's not the quintessential example of how lawyers and judges pervert the natural order by trying to affix legalese to natural phenomena, I don't know what is. Need I say more?

Likewise, it seems painfully obvious that the trajectory of the rhetoric from the presidential candidates on the Republican side of the aisle hasn't appropriately addressed any of the fundamental issues dealing with the existential nature of how we shall move forward as a nation and as a member of the global community into the 21st century in a way that sustains and advances the existence of humans on a planet worth living on. Because, like it or not we are going to have to make tough decisions concerning how to best make rapid and sweeping technological transitions of our energy sector along with revamping our financial sector if we are to have any hope of avoiding collapse. And, this continual fetish with tribal conflicts and terrorist organizations addressed as prudent foreign policy is completely blind to what belies the vast majority of human conflict, which is the global threat of diminishing resources leading to a diminished quality of life.

As for the Democratic side of the aisle, what immediately stands out to me is how the "Clinton Machine" exemplifies the very definition of machine politics. In other words, Hillary's playing a rigged game. For example, even though Bernie Sanders blew her away in New Hampshire, he only got half the delegates. Want more? Here's a reminder of the backroom decisions by the DNC to give her a decisive edge. Had enough or, shall we flip for it?

Both of these guys have records reaching back decades. Ask yourself who's been unwavering, more consistent? Being consistent is one of Bernie Sander's trademarks. He's always described himself as a democratic socialist; which has never been cool, especially during the Reagan years. So, he's his own man. You gotta like that.

As for Hillary Clinton, which Hillary? How many of you out there feel that she will say or do anything to become president? And, why? You can't get inside someone's head. That's for sure. But, if her record is any indicator, the empowerment of Hillary Clinton to the Presidency may leave us no better off than with Trump. There's certainly no doubt that she's the establishment candidate. The stack of superdelegates in her corner is proof of that. I might be able to work through her establishment status. But, when you add this superdelegates thing with the shenanigans within the DNC; it becomes too much. Superdelegates... One person / One Vote? Really? You know... if the higher ups in both parties were a little more concerned with making sure the electorate was better educated, they would have made access to a higher education for all a priority by more funding, not less. Instead they were more concerned with rigging the political system to ensure they stay in power. So much for the establishment.

And finally, the legacy from which Hillary is born out of has more than its share of scandals, double speak, and out right lies. But, it's the substance of the Clinton Legacy which is the main consideration here, right? So, in the end, I'm with Bernie. He is the one who has framed the political dialogue and has remained steadfast in his conviction regardless of whether it's trendy or not.

We can't be a real democracy with equal access and rights for all without an equitable campaign finance system. And, the growing divide between rich & poor, educated & uneducated and the creeping hand of privatization are opening up another chasm. Greater polarization! The only time we were more polarized as a country was during the Civil War. I wonder how much of that would go away if we just could get rid of...

CAMPAIGN FINANCE © Bloomberg via Getty Images CAMPAIGN FINANCE

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