In 2008 the American public was fed up with the disastrous status quo politics of George W Bush, so they came together and elected a progressive candidate who campaigned on hope and change to replace him.
But no progress happened; the hope and change never came. Barack Obama continued and expanded all of his predecessor’s most depraved policies at home and abroad, and it wasn’t long before the initial elation wore off and the illusion that things were looking up evaporated. It was as if Bush had never left office.
Worn out and disgusted by crushing neoliberal policies at home and murderous neoconservative policies abroad, Americans elected a political neophyte who ran on a populist platform which criticized both Bush and Obama. Trump promised to “drain the swamp”, end the wars, and fight the establishment in the interests of ordinary people. This time for sure there would be change.
But the wars kept going, and the swamp got even fuller, and the US empire kept chugging along on the same trajectory it had been on throughout the Bush administration and the Obama administration. Despite all this, the Democratic Party and its allied media institutions acted as though some drastic deviation from the norm had taken place, insisting that the United States had been plunged from a free democracy respected around the world into an isolationist fascist dystopia.
In order to stop fascism, the American people had yet another people’s uprising against the corrupt status quo and… elected Obama’s vice president. Lifelong corporate crony and empire lackey Joe Biden now sits in the White House, advancing all the same murderous, oppressive, exploitative, authoritarian policies as his predecessors, as a result of the latest fake, decoy revolution against tyranny.
And that’s all mainstream electoral politics ever is in the US empire: a fake, decoy revolution staged for the public every few years so that they don’t have a real one. A symbolic ceremony where the public pretends to cast the abusive status quo into the sea so they feel like the battle against their oppressors has been won. And then their oppressors just keep right on oppressing them.
Every few years the public gets to choose between two reliable lackeys of the oligarchic empire, and then all of the evils of that empire get pinned upon the winner. The public then directs their rage at the lackey rather than the actual power structure which has been oppressing them, after which they have another election to rid themselves of the scoundrel once and for all. They hug, they cry, they celebrate, and the oppression machine continues completely uninterrupted.
As Gore Vidal once said:
“It doesn’t actually make any difference whether the President is Republican or Democrat. The genius of the American ruling class is that it has been able to make the people think that they have had something to do with the electing of presidents for 200 years when they’ve had absolutely nothing to say about the candidates or the policies or the way the country is run. A very small group controls just about everything.”
That small group is the plutocratic class whose legalized bribery and propaganda machine has immense influence over US politics, as well as the imperial war machine and special interest groups with whom the plutocratic class is allied. It is necessary to form coalitions of support within that power cluster if one wants to become president in the managed democracy that is the United States, and no part of that power cluster is going to support a president who won’t reliably advance the interests of the oligarchic empire.
From this point of view, the oligarchic power cluster is essentially running its own employees against each other and having them promise to end the injustices which are inextricably baked in to the oligarchic empire. Americans live in a totalitarian state whose most important elections are rigged from top to bottom, and they’re fed news stories about Evil Dictators in other countries rigging their elections to remain in power.
Politicians cannot change the status quo to one which benefits ordinary people instead of their oligarchic owners, because the oligarchic empire is built upon the need for endless war, poverty, and oppression. You cannot have a unipolar global empire without using violent force (and the threat of it) to uphold that world order, and you cannot have a plutocracy without ensuring that a few rulers have far more wealth control than the rank-and-file citizenry.
For this reason, even politicians who run on relatively progressive-sounding platforms are themselves a part of the fake decoy revolution unless they demand a complete dismantling of oligarchy and empire. The politicians who present themselves as progressives in America today offer only light opposition to some aspects of empire and oligarchy, in effect merely supporting an oligarchic empire that gives Americans healthcare. Since keeping Americans poor, busy and propagandized is an essential dynamic in the hub of a globe-spanning oligarchic empire, this is a nonsensical position; the oligarchs don’t want ordinary Americans to have money to burn on campaign donations and free time to research what’s really going on in their world, because then they might meddle in the gears of empire. A power structure built upon economic injustice will never permit economic justice.
The door to meaningful change in America via electoral politics has been closed, locked, bolted, welded shut, and barricaded with a metric ton of solid steel. The only thing that can cause an end to the oppression and exploitation is an end to the oligarchic empire, and the only thing that can cause the end of the oligarchic empire is direct action by the American people: mass-scale activism, general strikes, and civil disobedience the likes of which the nation has never before seen, in sufficient numbers to bring down the plutocratic institutions which maintain the status quo.
The problem is that this will never happen as long as Americans are being successfully propagandized into being content with their fake decoy revolutions. There is a zero percent chance of electoral politics leading to an end of the empire, but a concerted effort to spread awareness by those who understand what’s going on just might.
All positive changes in human behavior are always preceded by an expansion of awareness, whether you’re talking about awareness of the consequences of one’s addiction leading to their getting sober or an expansion of awareness of the injustices of racism leading to racial justice laws. Making people aware that the mass media are lying to us about what’s real, aware of the horrors of war, aware of the underlying dynamics of the economic injustice which is grinding Americans into the dirt, that can lead to a chain reaction which sees the collective using the power of its numbers to shrug off the chains of oppression as easily as you remove a heavy coat on a warm day.
What’s needed is for the people to awaken to the truth. An entire empire is built upon a pair of closed eyelids.
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This is a dispatch from our ongoing series by Caitlin Johnstone
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