by Michael Novick, Anti-Racist Action-Los Angeles/People Against Racist Terror (ARA-LA/PART)

The quadrennial spectacle called the US presidential election is well-underway, with the candidates of the two major capitalist parties blatantly fore-ordained, and vying for who has the worse disapproval ratings. To say the election is rigged is a bad, discredited joke, thanks to the fascist con-man who lost the popular vote twice and nevertheless became the 45th pResident of the US, and aims to become the 47th.

But the truth of the matter is that the US is not now and never has been a democracy in any true sense of the word, by design. Since the “Continental” Congress before independence, the US has been designed to create an empire on stolen land, with power divided between the national and settler state sovereignties to ensure the extension and perpetuation in power of the powerful and wealthy. The president is designated by the Electoral College, which empowers sparsely populated rural white states to name the winner. The US Senate does the same to control “foreign policy” and the judiciary.

The national security state imposed after World War II integrated the former nazi apparatus into US military, counter-insurgency, and surveillance mechanisms that operate domestically as well as internationally to suppress and control dissent.The effective policy making and choices of the governing officials have been repeatedly shown to correspond to the needs and wishes of a wealthy few rather than the desires of the electorate or the population at large. The US has always been a settler colonial, white supremacist plutocracy.

“Third party” candidacies like those of Cornel West and Melina Abdullah for president and vice-president may serve as an effort to inject moral and political issues into the spectacle. But they are relegated to sideshows with limited impact, while massive amounts of “dark money” flood the airwaves. The corporate media (whether print, broadcast, or social) steadily shift the acceptable discourse to the right, towards war, or substitute individual striving for collective liberation.

Electoral systems like California’s “top-two” primary system ensure that there is no real alternative on the ballot. In a few municipalities, ranked choice voting is allowed, or voting by all residents without regard to immigration status. These function mainly to try to re-legitimize a discredited, unresponsive voting system. Fair Vote Action is a national effort pushing for a federal law mandating ranked choice voting in Congressional elections and multi-member districts, to end gerrymandering. You can read about it here: https://fairvoteaction.org/advocacy-priorities/the-fair-representation-act/

But even such reforms, which would give a voice to Democrats in states dominated by Republicans and vice versa, would not do much to change the narrow choices offered by the two-party system. The pro-imperialist duopoly that dominates the electoral arena and their capitalist sponsors spend hundreds of millions on propaganda, and subsidize pundits and strategists, to make people accept a choice between lethal injection and the firing squad as an exercise in democratic will.

Bruce Cockburn, the Canadian anti-war balladeer summed it up in his tune “Call It Democracy”:

Padded with power here they come

International loan sharks backed by the guns

Of market hungry military profiteers

Whose word is a swamp and whose brow is smeared

With the blood of the poor

And they call it democracy…

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