Somewhere back in the second Bush administration, U.S. politics gained transparency as a kind of running joke, a trundling circus-wagon of cheap face paint, bold contradictions and brutalized teleprompter speeches. It would have been way funnier if the offenders were fictional characters and not the actual leaders of our country (Frank Caliendo’s Dubya impression notwithstanding). If ‘political scandals’–pardon the euphemism–were TV episodes, Pennsylvania Ave. would have garnered an armload of Emmys by now. But this isn’t primetime HBO or Mad TV: we’re talking about a ‘real’ reality show, and at no time has this realization been more stunning than these 2016 presidential elections.
Where to begin?
The streamed-and-memed debacle of Trump vs. Clinton does, amazingly, bear seeds of progress, but only in the sense that the flagrant inadequacy of both candidates highlights the severe flaws of our 2-party system and thus begs for reform. And while Donald is an orange-faced political cartoon that never should have made it out of the 2-dimensional world of our funny papers, Hillary Clinton is perhaps the most corrupt, morally handicapped nominee that we’ve seen in recent history…or at least, she’s definitely up there with some of the other creeps of our nation’s rich political past. Trump’s many indiscretions are worth noting, sure, but how is it that the American media is so willing to overlook Hillary’s glaring violations of democracy, international law, and, more than anything, public trust? Our shrugging tolerance of all this is worrisome.
It almost makes me want to buy a Green Party t-shirt just because. I mean, it’s gotten so crazy that the following scenario has actually become plausible in my mind:
Random CNN guy: Multiple people are now coming forward claiming that they witnessed Hillary Clinton defacing statues of the forefathers in Washington with a spiked billy-club, but the sources remain dubious and unconfirmed…further, the two video clips we’ve received WERE confirmed to be shot on Russian spy technology and not civilian iPhones, and so the accusations are most likely not legitimate…let’s listen now to more sordid details about Trump’s multiple affairs and discuss via gossipy retweets!
It’s not that far-fetched, right? In fact, it sort of reminds me of that one old story, The Emperor’s New Clothes. Remember that one? This pompous emperor is told that his ‘new outfit’ is only invisible to his most incompetent subjects, and when he parades down the street naked with all his courtiers flanking him, everyone plays along because, well, no one wants to be seen as stupid. Clinton’s campaign, with the help of the U.S. media, appears to be manufacturing consent in much the same way. Whenever Julian Assange and WikiLeaks dare to step forward with more damning evidence that openly documents Hilary’s corruption, they’re ironically declared ‘treasonous’ and get stones thrown at them. Shut up Julian Assange, her new clothes are GREAT!
The general ‘talking-head response’ to the revelations of WikiLeaks have been frighteningly Orwellian. In a nation where dissent was originally enshrined as an essential maintenance tool of a functioning democracy, the nonpartisan folks at WikiLeaks are wildly accused of being threats to national security as well as being in cahoots with Russia and new pseudo-Bond villain Vladimir Putin, who, by the way, has made it abundantly clear that he’d much rather sit down at the negotiating table with Washington than suffer the mutually-assured destruction of a nuclear war. But when you turn FOX News or any one of its network counterparts on, none of these trifling things (like good foreign policy) matter. The more drama and slander, the better–Jefferson’s vision of an equitable democracy be damned! (Hey, did I mention Orwellian?)
What have we, beyond the shadow of a doubt, learned from the WikiLeaks dossier on Hillary Rodham Clinton? 1) The DNC election was rigged against Bernie Sanders by the Clinton campaign, a fiasco that included party funds being laundered directly to Hillary’s coffers. 2) Clinton mediated numerous weapons deals for foreign countries as Secretary of State in return for substantial monetary donations to the Clinton Foundation–even when those countries were known to be funding terrorists. 3) Clinton–and by extension, the State Department and DOD–is aware that ISIS is funded through Qatar and Saudi Arabia, two well-known U.S. client states. 4) And finally, the former first lady privately supports ‘open trade and open borders’ despite having publicly spoken out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an agreement that gives corporations carte blanche to pursue profits even when opposed by state laws . How appropriate, given her comments in a private speech about having a ‘public and private position’!
None of this is remotely OK coming from a potential commander-in-chief, and pointing it out is certainly not an implicit endorsement of Trump. Actually, the implications extend far beyond the outcome of this current election and penetrate to the very core of Washington’s prevailing weltanschauung, as witnessed over the last several decades of expansionist policies and rampant privatization of government. A Hillary Clinton presidency would provide little contrast with the administrations preceding her and, further, would rest on the same nexus of neocon adventurism which, given the humanitarian crises in Iraq, Libya, Syria and now Yemen, is hardly reassuring. The strain of American exceptionalism that emerged in U.S. foreign policy after World War 2 has long since morphed into a frank pursuit of regional hegemony in the Middle East, a kind of geopolitical stare-down with Russia and China.
This is where the dark network of defense contractors, arms dealers and covert intelligence agencies find their sustenance, so it’s no surprise the defense industry made higher contributions to Clinton than any other nominee this year. Go figure!
Here in the United States, we pride ourselves on our country’s origin story of liberty, democracy and individualism. We’re taught from grade-school to cultivate a deep appreciation of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, insofar as they ensure a government whose primary concern is the happiness and well-being of its citizens. Indeed, Thomas Jefferson laid the cornerstone for a free-thinking republic when he said,
“Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”
When you revisit these words, it presents quite a different perspective on people like Assange, Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and Democracy Now! journalist Amy Goodman–far from being criminals or traitors, these individuals are simply fulfilling their national duty as mandated by the forefathers we’re so taught to revere. They’re rightfully speaking out against a corrupt system that has the temerity to label its various offensives as ‘spreading democracy’, all the while perpetuating patterns of economic inequality via cozy relationships with Wall St. CEOs and random dudes from Goldman-Sachs who waltz right into the executive branch whenever they feel like it. If our body-politic is still animated by the democratic spirit, however, calling ‘foul’ is just keeping it real.
I have no idea what’s about to happen next, but it feels pretty damn apocalyptic. Mainstream network noise, with its mudslinging and one-sided sophistry, is called ‘journalism’, while real journalists are being threatened with jail-time and vilified for reporting with honesty. In the upcoming weeks, Julian Assange and WikiLeaks will be called all sorts of things and none of them will be true. You’ll be told you can’t read their documents unless the news shows it to you. We’ll see someone get elected who has no business being there. It’s probably time for some serious soul-searching on our part, and rediscovering who we are as a country might be as easy as returning to our roots.
If you take the Jeffersonian perspective, these ‘whistleblowers’ are more patriotic–and concerned with human rights–than a lot of the suits we happen to have in office. I can only hope their efforts pay off.