Our So-Called Democracy

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I sat down on my couch to watch the final presidential debate last week with a combination of fear and loathing. Since my more mature coping mechanisms had been exhausted by the previous three debates, I uncorked a bottle of pinot noir and poured a hefty glass to help things go a bit more smoothly.

As the candidates droned on, I kept recalling the comments that both my liberal and conservative friends have been making over the last several weeks. To a man, they have hysterically claimed that this election is a critical event for the future of America. They contend that the candidates are offering drastically different plans that will affect our nation in countless important ways.

But as I watched the show, I became convinced that their hysteria is totally unfounded. To me, the primary take-home message of the debates is the extent to which both candidates, and their respective parties, hold nearly identical opinions on most of the crucial issues facing America today.

This last debate, which focused on domestic concerns, was essentially an endless loop of the same argument which was made by both candidates in regards to every conceivable issue.

Moderator: What will you do about problem X?

Candidate: Problem X is one of the most important issues of our time. Since I’ve been in government, I’ve passed 693 bills concerning problem X. Over the past ten years, I’ve increased spending on problem X by 4.3 trillion dollars and have created 28 new government agencies to address the issue. My opponent, on the other hand, could care less about problem X. He’s been ignoring it for his entire career, and probably wants problem X to get worse, since his friends and cronies benefit from problem X. Vote for me, and problem X is as good as solved. I have a wonderful new plan to deal with it. Just go to my website and read all about it!

After listening to this for an hour and a half, I was quietly thanking God that I’d had the foresight to stock up on a few more bottles of wine to grease the wheels of this awful "debate."

My friends’ hysteria notwithstanding, when one considers the truly great issues of our time, the mysterious convergence of opinions of both parties becomes incredibly enigmatic.

I can’t help but to wander into the realm of the X-Files.

Take the Iraq War, for instance. Both Bush and Kerry are offering more of the same. Both contend that they will continue with the war until "victory." Their plans each consist of training Iraqis to fight the rebels and of persuading other nations to join our "coalition."

Whether either of these things will work is extremely doubtful, but I am nevertheless fascinated with the identical nature of their opinions. In a truly adversarial system of competing parties, wouldn’t one expect that one party would be in favor of continuing to fight the war in a more belligerent fashion, while the other would press for an immediate withdrawal? Would that not give the voters an authentic choice in the election?

Or take immigration. America’s southern border is being flooded by over 1 million illegal immigrants every year. Our government is involved in a war against a terror organization which has vowed to strike America again. Is it not obvious that the border’s pathetically porous nature represents a critical danger to our country? Whatever one’s opinion of immigration is, it is undeniable that there are serious arguments to be made that things need to be drastically altered.

Yet, amazingly, both candidates have essentially stated that the border will remain as is…with only a token civilian force in place to staunch the flow.

Ninety percent of the American people want illegal immigration to be stopped cold, yet the open-border policy continues year after year regardless of which party is in power.

Am I the only person who finds this a bit odd?

In a truly representative two-party system, would one not expect one party to favor continued open borders, while the other vows to close and militarize the frontier? Should not one party argue that illegal immigration is wonderful; with the other one claiming that it is bankrupting our nation and imperiling our security?

Again, where is the choice?

And how about the general nature our interventionist foreign policy? America has troops stationed in over 100 nations scattered across the globe. We have fought countless wars over the past decade and have lost many soldiers in these conflicts. Our budget deficit is exploding and the cost of this policy is partially to blame.

Would not a truly representative system consist of one party arguing for a continuation of our reckless globalism, while the other party pleads for "America First"?

Yet, the only thing to be heard from both Bush and Kerry is the same monotonous clichés about America needing to "lead the world" and continue to be involved in the "global community."

The argument for minding our own business is nowhere to be found. Both candidates are of essentially the same opinion while differing only in style.

Try as I might (in my admittedly wine-addled state) I could only discern one possible explanation for this series of coincidences. Namely, our system is steeped in fraud. I am forced to conclude that our elections are largely dog-and-pony shows in which the real decisions have been made beforehand, leaving the candidates to quarrel over window-dressings.

Basically, we live in an oligarchy.

The only way that the opposing candidates could possibly hold identical opinions about so many crucial issues is if they have been previously vetted by the establishment for their loyalty to those issues deemed critical to the powers-that-be.

My pet theory (and it is, admittedly, just a theory) is that the American elite, which consists mostly of powerful government officials, central bankers, quasi-governmental industrialists, and various "old money" Brahmin families, runs this country through their "soft" control of campaign finances, media, government regulations, and the political party machines. This elite has its own agenda which it forms by consensus in obscure corridors of power. We do not thus have a free market economy, and we do not have a truly representative republic. Our system functions like a corrupt cartel, and our elections are merely "shows" in which the great unwashed are permitted to choose between two candidates who have been carefully screened for their fidelity to various issues which are critical to these aforementioned elites.

This conclusion gives rise to another disturbing realization:

Ironically, this political system is similar to the one which our government is now attempting to impose on Iraq.

Any truly free election in Iraq would give rise to a government which would enact Islamic law and demand the withdrawal of American forces. Since the American elite has decided to occupy Iraq (for reasons that are not altogether clear to me), there is simply no way that our government will allow a real democratic election there. Instead, America has been attempting to create a system in which the Iraqis go through the motions of electing a government, but the resulting "elected" leaders still continue to abide by our dictates and allow for our continued occupation. Our government has been attempting to pull this off by resorting to a variety of backdoor manipulations designed to shape the process to its liking, but which still results in a government that is plausibly credible to the Iraqi citizenry as being the product of their democratically determined free-will.

It is not unreasonable to suggest that the only difference between us and the Iraqis is that the Iraqi people see through the mirage, while the American people are content to allow our system to fester so long as we are kept fat and happy.

But given our exploding trade deficit, our colossal budget deficit, and our eroding household incomes, it is interesting to ponder what will happen if our system stops "delivering the goods."

Might not the American public decide to take an angry peek behind the curtain to see just what is going on back there?

People might say that this all sounds a bit far-fetched and that I should avoid political philosophizing while under the influence. But one should also remember that old Roman saying: in vino veritas.

Steven LaTulippe [send him mail] is a physician currently practicing in Ohio. He was an officer in the United States Air Force for 13 years.

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