The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Rahm’s Win in Chicago: Does It Say Something About Americans?

Rahm Emanuel

Rahm Emanuel

I’m sure there were a lot of reasons for this…the unions splitting and Rahm having far more money than Garcia must rank high.

But anyone who has paid any attention knows that Rahm is a right-wing asshole. At some point, about America, one must say: “Most Americans tend to prefer right-wing assholes.” When was the last time, nationally, that anyone who wasn’t a right-wing asshole was President?

Let’s cut to the chase: Obama is worse on civil liberties than Bush II was; the no-fly list started under Clinton, who also cut welfare drastically and was the first president to have “free speech zones.” He may have been charismatic, but a lot of his policies were drastically punitive to the poorest and weakest. The last President one can make a case for was Carter–but remember! The great military buildup we often credit to Reagan started under Carter.

Yes, money played a role, but money wasn’t the decisive factor in many of those elections and money only excuses so much–especially when you’re re-electing a President (as by that point you should know what he’s been doing).

Today, one can argue that America is effectively an oligarchy with a democratic gloss, Citizens United having made it official. But it wasn’t always, and a lot of elections were required for it to become one. And the democratic mechanisms for overthrow are still in place, with many regional elections being in play.

Chicago was in play. Rahm won anyway.

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  1. Dan Lynch

    Totally agree except that you are far too kind to Jimmy Carter, our first Neoliberal president.

  2. Tom

    Like I said, America deserves to fall. We know these assholes are shit, we know the outdated first past the post system is broken and needs to be replaced by multi-party democracy with proportional voting and instant runoffs to make it harder for Oligarchs to form and put in play draconian penalties for those trying to abuse the system to form oligarchies.

    But we won’t, so we fall.

    Party while you can. You won’t be able to later.

  3. People vote for whomever they think is the strong man, the winner. It helps if the candidate promises to make them richer and punish their enemies but in the end all they really care about is worship of authority. Obedience to authority is the basis for their views on family, religion, politics and culture. They actively dislike the idea of sharing power.

  4. Tom Allen

    I think we’re like prisoners who elect our own guards. Perhaps in theory we’d all like to be free (though I have my doubts); but meanwhile, rather than revolt, most voters will prefer a vicious guard who protects their jailhouse clique over a more lenient guard who might give other gangs more leeway.

  5. “But anyone who has paid any attention knows that Rahm is a right wing asshole.”

    So is Obama, but a lot of people don’t know it. Or refuse to know it.

  6. Jeff Wegerson

    What I liked about the internet and blogging of the last decade, is that I felt it was getting everyone on the same page. Meaning that all the various currents of “leftism” were beginning to see the same root issues of plutocratic rule whenever one pushed one’s personal agenda far enough.

    That’s what I loved about your (Ian) call for an ideology based movement. It seemed like a logical early and concrete step. You have a strong following of people with comparable intellectual and political skills. While any path we might take will look very different than the kinds of things in Greece/Spain/Italy/Iceland it does seem that there is direction there.

    Here in Chicago, even with, or perhaps because of, the movement model that elected first Jane Byrne and then Harold Washington, it always seems that we must reinvent a movement around each new “leader” to oppose the ne0-liberal powers. What is missing is the fact that the leader should come from within the movement rather than the movement form around each new leader.

    For a brief moment there around 2006ish there appeared to be openings. It was what arose around MyDD / OpenLeft where there was a national blog and associated local blogs.

    The last spontaneous eruption in North America around an ideology was in the sixties when a bunch of people met in Port Huron and crafted a statement that led to a group called SDS. Of course, crafting an ideology that sits around waiting for a good historical moment is likely an exercise in futility.

  7. DMC

    When a sufficient number of people are not getting their fundamental needs met, alternate means will arise to meet those needs. There’s been some popular notions of a “Networked Future” wherein people, largely if not wholly online, congregate and thrash out systems to meet those fundamental needs. Think Amish barn raising, with 100’s of thousnads of participants. Crowd sourcing solutions. When significant percentages of cities population(Detroit, Boston) have their water turned off for non-payment, those alternate means WILL kick in or there will bodies in the street, one way or the other.

  8. Cvp

    Is there in actuality any democracy in this system?

    The very strong impression I’ve had since 2001 is that all the real power now lies with a central clique of strongmen, and everyone else’s legitimacy derives from their proximity and obedience to it. The machinery of representation is still there, but appears to attach to nothing.

    Leaders of “civil society” groups thus find themselves crushed at the interface between pretend and real power, and flail around in seemingly irrational ways as they try to appear to serve their pretend masters below while compelled to serve their real masters above.

  9. Everythings Jake

    Not entirely analogous, but: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Government Surveillance (HBO) Classic disengaged populace. However, as Zinn among others observed (paraphrasing), it’s not what happens on Election Day that’s most important, it’s what you do on every other day. A movement seems to be building in Chicago that looks squarely at facts and is ongoing. 44% is a good draw for an election. Rahm will trip (neo-liberal propaganda) does not seem to be curtailing growing awareness. Along with Ferguson where some continuing movement seems to exist. Need to hope and keep breathing on that kindling.

  10. Adams

    Unions did not unify. In other news, man bites dog, and Trumka opposes fast track on TPP because the agreement needs a few tweaks. If he, other union leaders, and Senate Dems hold fast against fast track TPP probably goes down. If they fold, or do not strongly oppose, we get NATA x 10. Also, as Ian points out below, union workers now building their own coffins.

  11. “with many regional elections being in play.”

    I’ve written several posts on my own blog about this subject, and how (for example) if just 13% of the registered voters in Ferguson, Missouri, had bothered to get involved and organize around opposition mayoral and city council candidates in the previous citywide election, Michael Brown might still be alive today. But cynicism and apathy have become just as strong a forces as the big money in effectively destroying the democratic process in this country. In a country with democratic institutions people get the government they deserve, and our ignorant and apathetic populace is getting exactly that.

  12. Anon y Mouse

    The neatest trick about democracy is that you get to blame the victims.

  13. Most older voters, yes. Most younger non-voters,none. Now, what to do about this?

  14. The oligarchs (or is it the plutocrats) own the media in this country and thus control the narrative which convinces enough people to vote against their self interests. Or so it seems.

  15. zephmarie

    When hackable vote tabulators are used to count votes, who wins depends on who’s counting.

  16. karenjj2

    Alan Smithee, Anon y Mouse, zephmarie are right: blaming the victims for election fraud is the ultimate insult. it’s not who votes, but who counts them.

    election fraud became evident when exit polls known for accuracy within +/- 2 points wilidly diverged from the electronic tallies in early 2000s and the “solution” was to drop exit polling.

    no one can satisfactorily explain to me how unknown Miami cuban rubio could defeat popular ex-governor Charlie Christ (who had the votes of teachers as well as north Florida towns effected by the bp disaster) running as independent for us senate.

    any one who believes in the privatized, computerized “proprietary programed run thru state elections office” voting results is seriously uninformed to put it mildly.

  17. different clue

    I don’t know how much about America the Chicago election really says. Perhaps it gives some insights. Elections in bigger jurisdictions would say more about America, and American National elections say the most about America. As some commenters have noted, when elections are pre-hacked and pre-frauded by fraudulent mass-voter-deletion, who is really saying what? Perhaps the majority of Americans being okay with “Hack The Vote” or “Delete the Voters”, or not even believing it, says something about American society and its intellectual leadership and mental overlordship right there.

    All that being said, Naked Capitalism has run a granularly detailed article about the outcome in Chicago. If the Chicago vote was not hacked or frauded enough to change the outcome from what a fraud-free hackless outcome would have been anyway, then this NaCap posting is valuable.

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