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The Non-Election of 2004 (Chomsky)

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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-08-05 07:20 PM
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The Non-Election of 2004 (Chomsky)
The elections of November 2004 have received a great deal of discussion, with exultation in some quarters, despair in others, and general lamentation about a divided nation. They are likely to have policy consequences, particularly harmful to the public in the domestic arena, and to the world with regard to the transformation of the military, which has led some prominent strategic analysts to warn of ultimate doom and to hope that U.S. militarism and aggressiveness will be countered by a coalition of peace-loving states, led by China (John Steinbruner and Nancy Gallagher, Daedalus). We have come to a pretty pass when such words are expressed in the most respectable and sober journals. It is also worth noting how deep is the despair of the authors over the state of U.S. democracy. Whether or not the assessment is merited is for activists to determine.

Though significant in their consequences, the elections tell us very little about the state of the country, or the popular mood. There are, however, other sources from which we can learn a great deal that carries important lessons. Public opinion in the U.S. is intensively monitored and, while caution and care in interpretation are always necessary, these studies are valuable resources. We can also see why the results, though public, are kept under wraps by the doctrinal institutions. That is true of major and highly informative studies of public opinion released right before the election, notably by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations (CCFR) and the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland (PIPA), to which I will return.

One conclusion is that the elections conferred no mandate for anything, in fact, barely took place, in any serious sense of the term election. That is by no means a novel conclusion. Reagans victory in 1980 reflected the decay of organized party structures, and the vast mobilization of God and cash in the successful candidacy of a figure once marginal to the vital center of American political life, representing the continued disintegration of those political coalitions and economic structures that have given party politics some stability and definition during the past generation (Thomas Ferguson and Joel Rogers, Hidden Election, 1981). In the same valuable collection of essays, Walter Dean Burnham described the election as further evidence of a crucial comparative peculiarity of the American political system: the total absence of a socialist or laborite mass party as an organized competitor in the electoral market, accounting for much of the class-skewed abstention rates and the minimal significance of issues. Thus of the 28 percent of the electorate who voted for Reagan, 11 percent gave as their primary reason hes a real conservative. In Reagans landslide victory of 1984, with just under 30 percent of the electorate, the percentage dropped to 4 percent and a majority of voters hoped that his legislative program would not be enacted.

What these prominent political scientists describe is part of the powerful backlash against the terrifying crisis of democracy of the 1960s, which threatened to democratize the society, and, despite enormous efforts to crush this threat to order and discipline, has had far-reaching effects on consciousness and social practices. The post-1960s era has been marked by substantial growth of popular movements dedicated to greater justice and freedom and unwillingness to tolerate the brutal aggression and violence that had previously been granted free rein. The Vietnam War is a dramatic illustration, naturally suppressed because of the lessons it teaches about the civilizing impact of popular mobilization. The war against South Vietnam launched by JFK in 1962, after years of U.S.-backed state terror that had killed tens of thousands of people, was brutal and barbaric from the outset: bombing, chemical warfare to destroy food crops so as to starve out the civilian support for the indigenous resistance, programs to drive millions of people to virtual concentration camps or urban slums to eliminate its popular base. By the time protests reached a substantial scale, the highly respected and quite hawkish Vietnam specialist and military historian Bernard Fall wondered whether Viet-Nam as a cultural and historic entity would escape extinction as the countryside literally dies under the blows of the largest military machine ever unleashed on an area of this sizeparticularly South Vietnam, always the main target of the U.S. assault. When protest did finally develop, many years too late, it was mostly directed against the peripheral crimes: the extension of the war against the South to the rest of Indochina terrible crimes, but secondary ones. <snip>
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intheflow Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-08-05 07:23 PM
Response to Original message
1. Thanks for posting.
No time to read this now, but have bookmarked this thread to read tomorrow. :hi:
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hilster Donating Member (135 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-08-05 07:28 PM
Response to Original message
2. Chomsky
is amazing
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NJCher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-08-05 07:34 PM
Response to Original message
3. I bookmarked it, too
Hope those of you who did likewise will find your way back to this thread and post your thoughts.

I found two Chomsky groups over at the new Google Groups!

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BrklynLiberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-08-05 07:39 PM
Response to Original message
4. Thanks for posting. Chomsky is the best. I have bookmarked and sent
Edited on Sat Jan-08-05 07:39 PM by BrklynLiberal
on to many others.
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blindpig Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-08-05 11:31 PM
Response to Original message
5. yow
the only thing I can't understand about Chomsky is how he can maintain optimism after such a razor sharp analysis. I fear that the environment will not wait.

Chomsky may write our epitaph.
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-08-05 11:47 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. There's no political upside to pessimism: nobody can work ...
... against the ugly juggernaut without believing that there is at least some chance of success. So, no matter how unrealistic it sometimes seems, we have no real choice except to be optimistic.
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housewolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-09-05 12:40 AM
Response to Original message
7. Great article, thanks for posting
Another quote from the article worth taking note of

"Though it is natural for doctrinal systems to try to induce pessimism, hopelessness, and despair, the real lessons are quite different.
They are encouraging and hopeful. They show that there are substantial opportunities for education and organizing, including the development of potential electoral alternatives. As in the past, rights will not be granted by benevolent authorities, or won by intermittent actionsa few large demonstrations after which one goes home, or pushing a lever in the personalized quadrennial extravaganzas that are depicted as democratic politics. As always in the past, the tasks require day-to-day engagement to createin part re-createthe basis for a functioning democratic culture in which the public plays some role in determining policies, not only in the political arena from which it is largely excluded, but also in the crucial economic arena, from which it is excluded in principle."
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bemildred Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-09-05 01:07 PM
Response to Original message
8. A kick for Mr. Chomsky. nt
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parsifal_e Donating Member (76 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-10-05 12:55 AM
Response to Reply #8
9. Chomsy ! , his like should become president ..n/t
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