Every four years the U.S. electorate is granted the dubious privilege of observing so-called democracy in action. Observing, not participating. Major party candidates are selected behind closed doors and the finished packages are artfully produced as major events of light, sound, color, and hollow promises. Voters watch the glittering circuses and try to choose the best candidate from dismal, pre-empted slates.
It’s an impossible choice. The promises of jobs. an end to inflation, opportunity for all, peace — whatever — are identical and equally unbelievable. Even the media recognizes the paucity of programmatic differences among the candidates. Commentaries abound decrying the miserable choice, and the lack of political conflict forces journalists to focus on personalities and style instead.
None of the candidates can offer a credible program for real improvement. And only a believable blueprint for progress could gain the loyalty of the desperate voter.
Americans are afflicted with record-high inflation, depression-level unemployment, political and physical attacks on women, people of color and gays, slashed welfare benefits, draft registration — and no solutions in sight. Intolerable living conditions and racist police brutality have incited bloody riots in Black communities, civil rights gains are being shot down by KKK bullets, and international tensions have escalated to the point where nuclear war threatens.
And as the economic and political crisis deepens, all the major league candidates have veered sharply to the right.
The Republicans, Democrats, and pseudo-independent Anderson offer only rightwing measures to deal with the crisis. In a desperate attempt to prop up the crumbling capitalist economy, the major candidates blithely propose more hardship, more bellicose war threats, and the sacrifice of human needs on the altar of greater profits for the plutocracy.
The presidential politicians try to outflank each other on the right, and the only winners of this con game will be Big Business and the resurgent right wing. Bourgeois politics mean disaster for workers and the poor.
At the Republican convention in Detroit, the extreme right wing ecstatically seized control of the party with virtually no opposition.
Ronald Reagan, the photogenic demagogue who considers the Vietnam War a “noble cause” and “welfare chiselers” the major enemy, turned the convention into a coronation and presided over the adoption of the most overtly reactionary party platform in modern U.S. history.
Bill Wilkinson, the leader of the country’s largest KKK faction, wrote that the Republican platform “reads as if it were written by a Klansman.”
Traditional Republican support of the ERA was dropped, and the current platform contains such planks as “right to work” laws, “fiscal and monetary restraint” in social services, $100 billion more for “defense,” and a constitutional amendment to ban abortion.
Nevertheless, Republican bigotry had to be tempered to appeal to the “center” and gain a November victory. So Reagan struck a balancing humanitarian note. In his acceptance speech, he ballyhooed “family, neighborhood, work, peace and freedom,” called the GOP “the party of Abraham Lincoln,” and climaxed his sermon with quotes from F.D.R. himself. Republicanism was given a veneer of old-time Democratic rhetoric in order to woo disenchanted Democrats.
And with the Democratic party reduced to acrimonious shambles, the Republicans just might succeed.
In sharp contrast to the polished unanimity of the Republican swing to the right was the chaotic and damaging right turn of the Democrats.
Four years of Carter-the-Businessman’s efforts to restore an ailing capitalism alienated the very people who put him in office — labor, people of color, women, and the poor. The popular Democratic coalition, based on an optimistic liberalism, has been shattered by the harsh reality of economic downturn and world crisis.
Jimmy Carter is a different kind of candidate than in 1976. His old image as a down-home, compassionate, nonpolitician-reformer-savior has been replaced by the 1980 reality of a coldblooded spokesman for Big Business who didn’t keep his shining promises and whose cold wars have frightened off the liberals.
Ted Kennedy became the tragic hero of the liberals this time around. His rhetorical, poetic appeal to “the common people” fired the hearts of the party ranks. But Camelot II was not to be. He had flubbed the primaries — and capitalism can no longer afford even the pretense of liberalism.
A backroom compromise was engineered: Carter would have the nomination, but would concede pet platform planks to Kennedy. Nothing was lost since boss-party platforms are meaningless. Carter was still free to entice vacillating Republican voters by fighting on rightwing ground with rightwing weapons — increased military spending, opposition to abortion, a reckless foreign policy, and tax cuts for business.
Sealed by Kennedy’s pouting concession, the Democratic rightward swing was complete.
With the Democrats and Republicans fighting over nothing and neither having the support of the major voting blocs, it was necessary to field a third candidate who could pretend to offer an alternative to demoralized Republicrats and Democans.
John Anderson presents himself as an “independent” option to the bankruptcy and conservatism of capital’s Tweedledum and Tweedledee parties. But he is only independent of their structure, not of their ruling class control or their cynical corruption.
In his early days as a true-blue Republican Congressman, Anderson introduced a bill to designate the United States as a “Christian nation.”
He once read a tract on Black inferiority into the Congressional Record.
But, from youthful extremism, he developed into a “moderate” Republican, mouthing concern for the disinherited while counseling due restraint when it came to economic solutions. His record shows a long string of antilabor votes and he’s always been a strong supporter of nuclear power.
And that’s his approach to this day, except he now supports the ERA and abortion rights, and safe nukes. His response to inflation is a 50¢ per gallon gasoline tax. He promises labor more jobs but can’t quite figure out how to create them. He’s against a “peacetime” military draft, but is also a hawk.
Who does he actually represent? The list of his backers reads like a Who’s Who of big capital.
From the very beginning, his campaign rode on the favor of the big-money media — the New York Times, Newsweek, the Washington Post, Time-Life, Inc., CBS — and the power-broker families who buy and sell presidential candidates — Rockefeller, Cabot, DuPont, Lodge, Ford, Mellon.
Anderson is also a longtime member of the Trilateral Commission and the Council of Foreign Relations, international economic-and-foreign-policy bodies headed by David Rockefeller of Chase Manhattan Bank.
Why do the conglomerates back a challenge to their own parties? To block a genuinely independent third party which would sound the death-knell of the two-party scam.
The ruling class are no fools; they know that Reagan’s 19th century posturing and Carter’s coldly reactionary record make it impossible to choose the “lesser evil.” So huge numbers of worried voters, searching for an alternative, might choose not to vote — or to vote socialist. Enter Anderson, the proof that politics provides options, that an obscure politician can challenge the big boys without having to abandon the holy capitalist ideology.
Lesser evils like little Hitlers
Some progressives urge voting for Carter because Reagan represents a serious danger of nuclear war. But Carter has already tried one invasion of Iran and plans another. And Anderson’s Trilateralist foreign policymakers are the same Wall Street moguls who backed Carter in 1976.
But what about unemployment, inflation, the menacing ultra-right? Won’t Reagan make all of this worse?
Yes, he will. And so has Carter for the past four years. And Anderson offers more of the same.
There is no lesser evil among the capitalist candidates. They are all executives for the ruling class, for the bosses. They all guarantee spiralling unemployment, inflation, war, and the end of human rights.
Don’t go away — there is hope
The alliances that traditionally elect presidents are in disarray and the stage is set for the emergence of a new party — a truly popular, mass party based on the labor unions, people of color, women, gays, the poor and neglected, all those to whom the latest crop of jaded presidential hopefuls offers no representation.
An explicitly anticapitalist party standing for jobs and civil rights for all, and for labor’s political independence from management, would put class struggle on the electoral agenda.
As the global crisis of capitalism deepens, millions of Americans are seeking a genuine alternative, a class alternative, to the idiotic electoralmania that infests the country every four years. They are more than ready for a labor party, and open to a socialist electoral coalition which could be a stepping stone toward a revolutionary solution.
To choose among capitalist candidates is a choice among gravediggers. The only choice for 1980 is to vote for the socialist or communist or truly independent, anticapitalist candidates. A strong showing for leftwing minority parties in November will pave the way for united socialist or labor party campaigns in the following years.
Then and only then will equally-evil politics be supplanted by principled politics — by the clear electoral confrontation of the oppressed against the oppressor. U.S. politics will grow up to become meaningful, honest and revolutionary.