The way out of the trap

Here we are once again . . . it’s election season. Being a “democracy,” we the people have our opportunity to cast our votes for the man or woman who will be our president, the “leader of the “free” world.”

Every four years we find ourselves inundated with political ads, political interviews, and “debates” of candidates. During the in-between years, we are given the opportunity to vote for senators and congressmen.

But nothing beats the presidential elections where candidates often declare their intentions to run for office two or three years in advance. The mainstream media helps us keep track of how the candidates are faring, not by the policies they project but by the amount of money they raise.

And, where does the money come from? Those candidates who are most successful are those who make clear they represent the wealthy ruling class who then proceed to donate tens of thousands to millions of dollars to their campaigns.

But let’s face it . . . to be elected, a candidate must gather enough popular support. The money allows them to get their message out to the public, using television, radio, newspaper ads, etc.

You might ask, if they truly represent the wealthy ruling class, how do they get the working man to support them? The candidates hire staffs of people, some of whom have the responsibility to keep the candidate informed about issues that would gather popular support from working people. Then the process of making promises begins, few of which will ever be implemented once the election is over.

A favorite distraction from the true problem in our society is the use of domestic social issues . . . abortion, gay marriage, gun control, freedom of speech, etc. Not that these aren’t important issues but they distract us from addressing the main problem in our lives, predatory capitalism and imperialism.

It’s inevitable that the masses will experience disappointment and discouragement once they realize that their candidate, once elected, is there to ensure the status quo remains intact.

What exactly is the status quo for the United States of America? Perpetual war, high unemployment, inadequate educational systems, unaffordable college education, eroding safety net for people in need, lack of affordable housing for hundreds of thousands U.S. citizens, one of the worst health care systems among the industrialized nations, a crumbling infrastructure, a growing disparity between the wealthy and the working class, etc.

We, in the U.S. have a two-party system, a system whose function is to perpetuate itself. Therefore, it is almost impossible for a third-party candidate to be heard or taken seriously. To vote for a third-party candidate is seen by most Americans as a wasted vote. This, of course, narrows down our options to either the Democratic candidate or the Republican candidate. And, when candidates for both parties are beholden to their wealthy financial contributors, who will represent the needs and desires of the people?

It is and has been a popular notion that the Democratic Party is the party of the people. No matter how many times the Democrats fail these same people, every election finds us experiencing the same dynamics. The Republican candidates, attempting to placate their constituencies, assume such extreme right-wing positions that they frighten and alienate many voters causing them to rationalize their votes for the Democrat as a vote for the lesser of two evils.

As Glen Ford, editor of Black Agenda Report stated in reference to Barack Obama, he is not the lesser of two evils, he is the more effective evil.

Let us not forget that the lesser of two evils is still an evil. Democrats, as well as their Republican comrades, are beholden to big money. They are representatives of the kinder, gentler capitalism and imperialism programs endorsed by the U.S. Whereas, the Republicans unashamedly declare their constituency to be the ruling class not the workers, the Democrats support the ruling class more subtly. Their role is to concede various victories to the working class while maintaining the predatory systems known as capitalism and its partner, imperialism, systems which have proven to work against the welfare of workers.

There have been occasions when the Democrats controlled both the White House and Congress. Yet, legislative action to offer relief to the workers in the U.S. was not forthcoming. For example, the current campaign by minimum wage workers to increase the minimum wage has brought that issue to the forefront. Yet, when Barack Obama took office in 2009, and Democrats were in control of Congress, this issue lay dormant. No one addressed the problem suffered by these workers until they took to the streets.

The actions of the workers have forced the politicians who are members of the “people’s” party to speak out in support of raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

However, the process has been slow. Initially, Obama, as a concession to these workers and their growing public support of their demands, suggested raising wages to $10.10 per hour. What Obama’s solution to the problem would have meant is that the people earning $7.25 per hour and living in dire poverty would now earn $10.10 per hour and live in dire poverty. Even at $15 per hour, these workers will be grossing only $31,200 per year, hardly an exorbitant amount of money.

Regarding health care, President Obama with his colleague Max Baucus, both Democrats, removed the public option or any form of a single payer option off the table before negotiations even began. Although the new program does offer new benefits to consumers, the mandated coverage offered the health care insurers millions of new customers without putting in place any means to control the cost of premiums. What we are experiencing today is, once again, the costs of insurance rising beyond the affordability level for many people.

The U.S. is the only country in the industrialized west that does not ensure that all its citizens are covered by health insurance. Where have the Democrats been hiding?

Where it comes to imperialistic wars, the Democratic Party has almost unanimously endorsed every invasion in which we find ourselves today. It is the sons and daughters of the working class who fight, kill, or get killed fighting these wars. It is the ruling class who gather enormous financial gains from these wars. Ask yourselves, why are we always at war while our infrastructure crumbles and our safety net is woefully underfunded? Why do some of us ride in private jets, yachts, have several homes while most of us struggle to put food on the table, pay our rent, and clothe our children? Where is the party of the “people”?

I could go on with many other examples but I think I’ve made my point.

Every election cycle our Democrats come out of the woodwork with their populist rhetoric. Every election, we vote for them . . . sometimes because we’re frightened by the extremists of the other party and sometimes we really believe they will make a difference. Despite the fact that nothing meaningful changes, in fact, for the working class, life has gotten harder while the 1% gathers more and more wealth, we continue to participate in this farce, this political theater.

The question I would ask is, who benefits from all this electoral activity? We, the people, accept this fantasy that we are living in a democracy and are selecting our own leaders. The electoral process perpetuates that myth. Instead, we are selecting whom the 1% has chosen for us . . . either Twiddle Dee Dee or Twiddle Dee Dum. To keep us focused on these elections is to distance us from the real issues . . . capitalism, privatization, profit, control of production and distribution of goods and services.

And, therein lies the trap. We are denied any other meaningful option. Until we refuse to participate in this sham and begin organizing to change this system, we will remain in this trap . . . impotent, disheartened, and powerless.

Bernie Sanders has captured the imagination of a large segment of our society. He is challenging big money, not to change the system but to make it more acceptable. Sanders has been useful to the ruling capitalist class by hooking the growing number of disaffected workers back into the Democratic Party with his commentary on issues such as the lack of affordable health care and the predominance of low-wage work. He has done so under the assumption that such issues can be resolved under the dictates of U.S. capital.

Sanders has been labeled a socialist and he has accepted the title, but he never addresses the fundamental issue . . . who controls and owns the means of production. What Sanders offers is a different type of capitalism. His style of socialism is one the capitalists can accept . . . placing Band-Aids on a hemorrhage.

Capitalism, by its very nature will never be for the people and of the people. To try and make it kinder and gentler is like trying to change a cat into a bird. It will eventually destroy us and the planet.

Danny Haiphong, in his article in Workers World, clarifies what must be done to allow for real change . . .”The seizure of state power by the oppressed masses is a necessary precondition to the fundamental transformation of the social relations inherent under capitalism. The state must be transformed into a body that no longer manages private property, but rather administers things. That is, the state must be transformed into an organ of the masses capable of suppressing the old order and implementing the necessary economic and political policies of the new.”

The ruling class will not voluntarily surrender their power and money. Therefore, the use of the word seize is appropriate. The people have the power to make this country come to a halt and demand changes by taking to the streets and refusing to allow business as usual.

It is the exploited labor of workers that ensures profit for the owners. Refusal by the workers nationally to continue offering their labor would be a language the rulers would understand. We must take away the power of production and distribution from private profiteers and put it in the hands of a government that represents the needs of the people rather than the needs of the exploiters.


Dave Alpert has masters degrees in social work, educational administration, and psychology. He spent his career working with troubled inner city adolescents.

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2 Responses to The way out of the trap

  1. Regarding the forever ongoing electoral Punch and Judy farce , the author writes, “….who benefits from all this electoral activity? We the people accept the fantasy that we are living in a democracy and choosing our own leaders….Until we refuse to participate in this sham and begin organizing to change this system, we will remain in this trap….impotent, powerless and disheartened.” Exactly! Also, dead on target on Sanders’ candidacy.

  2. “The ruling class will not voluntarily surrender their power and money”.

    True, but the suggested solution to bring about change ie, by withholding labour, will not work, because most workers need to feed, house and clothe family members.

    To avoid the destructive conflict usually associated with revolution, I propose a globally active IMF/World Bank constituted to create (“print”) money to enable governments to fund specified, employment-creating, social activity eg, early childhood education, childcare, disability care, environment care) as required, *without increasing taxes or public debt*, operating alongside private sector production of goods and services based on competition and free trade.

    Is it beyond the wit of men for the two systems to exist side by side? (Two systems, one world!)