Elections are essentially democratic props waved around as "proof" of free living. In America, this idea has been streamlined to the degree that those who bother to vote every few years often feel that their civic duty is done. They are told by the corporate media to VOTE -- not to organize unions, civic groups, or, God forbid, independent parties. They are not told to dissect and examine the ruling economic consensus and the powers that enforce it and profit from it. No, they are told to VOTE, then go home and consume.
Without any real grassroots democratic input into a national dialogue that is owned & operated by private power, political elections serve merely as consumer ratification of decisions already made. This is especially true in the presidential contest, a fixed fight that is hailed every four years as a "miracle." As corporate pundits, journalists and assorted tastemakers/gatekeepers pitch the "uniqueness" of our system, those who actually run it take a more realistic view.
Take the invasion and occupation of Iraq. While millions worldwide opposed this unilateral (and, subsequently, destructive) action, very few were allowed to sit in US corporate media studios to make their case alongside countless generals and "terrorism experts." There simply was no tolerance for those who might question the president at so crucial a time.
In other words, there was no real national debate, no attempt by the White House or the media to open the discussion to varied points of view. The march to war was a public relations operation from the start, and this was confirmed by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, who rightly referred to the coming war as product to be consumed. In response to queries as to why the Bush admin waited till Sept 2002 to announce its intentions, Card replied, "From a marketing point of view you don't introduce new products in August."
If a major war can be launched this way, then what does that say about the electoral arm of the same system, one that is increasingly privatized? No serious political observer can view the Nov elections as "democratic" (esp with two prowar products to choose from), unless you tend toward Walter Lippmann's view of "democracy," (contrasted here with John Dewey's belief).
There's lingering talk about voter fraud in Ohio & Florida, and voter suppression elsewhere. I doubt that there's ever been an American election without fraud and suppression, varying in scale and effectiveness, of course. And while I don't subscribe to the theory that "Kerry won," (I'm willing to believe that the majority of voters preferred Bush), I'm aware that we live in a corrupt political sphere. Name a world power that wasn't rotten in its center.
Which brings us to US attitudes about and involvement in the two prominent elections overseas -- Ukraine and Iraq. More on this in a subsequent post.