The Politicians’ Masked Ball

Three political groups are competing for votes in the U.S., and if we want to defend our democracy and create a society based on the common welfare for the long term, we need to call them by accurate names: the Elitist Party, the Pandering Party, and the Common Good Dissidents.

Our politicians perform before us like revelers at a masked ball, but it’s not a game they are playing, and what they are doing to us is not amusing. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am sick of our common political labels, which no longer serve any useful social function, so I propose that one of the two major parties–and I leave it to the reader to figure out which one–be renamed the Elitist Party and that the other be renamed the Pandering Party. The Elitist Party officials believe that those with power and wealth have it because they deserve it or is it that they deserve it because they have it? Anyway, they also believe that enough of the people really want a king so that they can get elected even while they insult and cheat those whose votes they wish to procure.  The Pandering Party officials also want power and wealth but believe that the best way to get it is by giving gifts to voters. Then there are some fringe groups led by idealists, dreamers, philosophers, and tree-huggers, who think not only that politicians should give the people what they need…even though almost none of the people know what they need or would want it if so educated. Who really wants to share resources or curtail carbon consumption just to save the world for our children? Call them the Common Good Dissenters, for they are in reality just a bunch of isolated and overly individualistic intellectuals without the slightest idea of how to organize a protest march, much less a functioning political party.

Now, you should be able to decide between drinks and dinner which party to vote for. If you are part of the majority that is asking for endless social services plus low taxes, beware strangers bearing gifts. If you are one of the weird ones who actually does want to save the planet for our kids, start sacrificing for a new, healthier but harder lifestyle If you are in the 0.1%, you know perfectly well that you had to hurt a lot of folks to get your privileges; obviously, you would not be able to look in the mirror unless you were convinced you were better than everyone else, but not to worry: lots and lots of folks really would rather have a king than be bothered with protecting our vulnerable democratic rights. Promise folks you’ll take care of them, and a lot really will vote for Your Highness. If you are on your way up in life, looking for that wealth and power by which you measure yourself, however, a psychologically less twisted option is offered by the Pandering Party: do good because it just happens to get you votes. The little problem here is that doing what the people want is of course frequently not good for them.

Now, we have a moral problem best avoided in a democracy, unless you are a politician aspiring to die of terminal frustration. With all the information around today–and the worst offender is the Internet, which you are reading at your own risk, it is getting increasingly difficult for a good old-fashioned Elitist to convince folks to vote against their own interests on anything substantive. Herein lies the problem recently recognized by Jim DeMint: when a party pursues the single goal of enriching the elite and the voters are educated, how can it possibly expect to get votes from anyone who is not, well, filthy rich? One solution, in principle, might be to make everyone rich, but that really would not accomplish anything, because–by definition–what the elite wants is not wealth for all but particular privileges for the few. That, after all, is precisely the meaning of “elite.”

The current solution to the Elite Party’s dilemma is of course to focus political campaigns on fringe emotional issues while assiduously avoiding any serious discussion of empire-building, welfare for the rich, corporate personhood, equality of opportunity, financial corruption, or the long-term health of anything (e.g., people, the environment, our democracy). How, as opportunities for education spread, are they supposed to continue winning elections with such idea-free attitudes? It’s really quite simple: a steady flow of ambitious and jealous Pandering Party pols aspiring to become members of the elite keeps the super-rich firmly in control. Note, for example, how little attention Obama is paying to the obscenely low capital gains tax rate or the continuing misbehavior of the super banks. The elite, 200 years after the passing of King George, remains in control because the so-called opposition party pols would mostly really rather be bribed into joining than spend their lives making a modest living defending a semi-literate population of spendthrift and irresponsible voters who hardly ever have a clue what is really in their best interests.

Should you, dear reader, happen to consider yourself insulted by this last comment, please, I beseech you, prove me wrong.

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