Why Americans Elect Awful Presidents
Joel S. Hirschhorn
Sat, 04 Sep 2010
For years I muttered mentally to myself about the insanity of Americans electing George W. Bush president. Now I go through the same agony about the craziness of the nation electing Barack Obama president. As much as I thought Bush was a manipulated second-rate politician that carried out the terribly destructive policies pushed by Cheney and other conservative corporate shills, now I feel equally angry that so many voters fell for the slick rhetoric and lies of Obama. Disgust produces public thirst for change and Obama was wickedly brilliant at selling change. When voters are so easily victimized what does democracy amount to?
All this tells me that any nation that can elect such inept people president can also elect other people that appear to have no right or chance to be president of the United States just as Bush and Obama once appeared before they were sold to the public. That is what is so frightening about the future of this nation. The two-party plutocracy with its stranglehold on the American political system has the power to elect presidents that are an insult to the great ones that once served the nation with pride and competence.
I keep searching for explanations why millions of American voters make such bad electoral decisions. Are they just so stupid, uninformed and distracted that they fall for endless political lies? Have Americans become so easily manipulated and fooled by advertising and brilliant political campaigns that they can be sold terrible presidents as easily as unneeded, low quality and unhealthy products?
Yes, all this seems too true. Delusional voters have produced our delusional democracy which strongly favors corporate, wealthy and elitist interests over ordinary Americans. This explains frightening economic inequality and the demise of the middle class. In the late 1970s, the richest 1 percent of American families took in about 9 percent of the nation's total income; by 2007, the top 1 percent took in 23.5 percent of total income (less than 5 million people). Two-thirds of the nation's total income gains from 2002 to 2007 flowed to this sliver of households, which saw a rise of 62 percent, compared to 4 percent for the bottom 90 percent of households. Today, the median male worker earns less, adjusted for inflation, than he did 30 years ago. A corrupt bipartisan system gave us this. Is this the change you were waiting for?
Considering Bush and Obama from a right-left perspective misses their several critical commonalities. Both have wasted the nation's wealth and lives on two ludicrous, unnecessary wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both turned out to be pretty good communicators during their presidential campaigns but quite lousy after they became president. The more intelligent and articulate Obama is particularly striking in being totally lackluster when it comes to addressing major issues and crises and building public support for his policies, which now explains his very low approval ratings.
Both pursued public policies and government programs that preferentially benefit corporate and other special interests, especially the financial sector. This is no surprise because both depended on huge amounts of corporate money to get elected. They both have responsibility for the economic meltdown that still exists for a large fraction of the nation. A large majority of Americans correctly see the nation on the wrong track, but more importantly it is hurtling down the wrong track, which President Obama ignores, because he lacks solutions.
What may turn out to be the most disturbing similarity is that Obama may get elected for a second term just like Bush accomplished despite uninspiring performance. If there is anything more disturbing than electing awful politicians with no real record of accomplishments it is reelecting them for a second term! More than anything else this demonstrates the absence of true, effective political competition and the ability to brainwash and manipulate voters.
For years I hoped that some third party presidential candidate would emerge, capture public confidence and offer a true reform program to repair our nation. But sadly the political system has been so corrupted that no third party presidential candidate stands a chance against the two-party plutocracy. The biggest nonsense is that the US is the greatest democracy on Earth. There are many other democracies where multiple political parties give citizens far more choices than Americans have. It pays to remember that no nation ever copied the government structure of the US. Instead, other democracies where citizens also have freedom use parliamentary structures with far more political choices and even the ability to more easily get rid of rotten leaders. Here we suffer with disappointing presidents for far too many years.
The most fascinating aspect of our constitutional republic is that one constitutional path to get true, deep reforms of our government and political system has never been used. This proves how powerful, entrenched interests on the right and left have maintained a corrupt, dysfunctional and costly system. Very, very few Americans know anything about the option in Article V of the Constitution for a convention of state delegates that could propose constitutional amendments. You can learn the facts at the Friends of the Article V Convention website. The one and only requirement for a convention has long been met but Congress refuses to obey the Constitution. They fear it. We need it more than ever.
A constitutional scholar such as President Obama could make history by openly demanding that Congress convene the first Article V convention. But that would require dropping the constitutional hypocrisy that he and so many others have. The rule of law is a farce when an important part of the beloved Constitution is ignored.
Joel S. Hirschhorn has a new book, Delusional Democracy: Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government, which supports constitutional conventions and other peaceful ways to restore American democracy.