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Said Arikat

Midterm elections tell us American democracy is for sale

A money-fuelled vote against Obama [AFP]

Date of publication: 10 November, 2014

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The infusion of money into politics after a 2010 Supreme Court decision has left America’s super rich with the reins of political power firmly in their hands. Last week’s $4 billion mid-term elections only affirmed that reality.

It’s over.

The most expensive midterm election in US history is over, leaving the Democratic party staggering and disoriented and Republicans with clear majorities in both houses of Congress.

With 243, this is the largest Republican majority in the House of Representatives since 1928. Along with the 53 seats it now controls in the Senate, the GOP now controls both houses for the first time in 18 years.

 

Republicans now govern thirty-one of America’s 50 states.

 

This is a victory for the right. It’s not that the Democrats are so "progressive" – the great Ralph Nader decades ago coined the term “Republicrats” to describe them. But really, the middle class, women, the working class, the under-employed, the half-employed, gays, students, environmentalist, blacks, Latinos and Arabs all have reason to look over their shoulders. Many among Congress Republicans, fuelled by a sense of being on God’s mission, have these groups in their crosshairs for no reason except somehow they think them a threat to big business and American wars everywhere.


It has been described as a Republican wave, an avalanche,

      Democratic candidates did not so much try to put daylight between them and Obama; they ran as if on a different continent.

a perfect storm. But this is how it really happened: Four billion US dollars – that's $4 billion, or enough dollar notes to go around the world three times taped end to end – was spent on this election. Much of it came from super billionaires: the ultra conservative Koch brothers, AIPAC sugar-daddy (and self-styled Jewish settlement proliferator) Sheldon Adelson and other members of their bandit-capitalism club who, it seems, are not satisfied with hoarding most of America's wealth.

 

(In January, US media reported that the top wealthiest 1 percent in America control 40 percent of the nation’s wealth; the bottom 80 percent, by contrast, own just 7 percent. The richest 1 percent in the United States in fact now has more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined.)

 

‬To give you an idea of how this plays out in practice, in North Carolina alone, groups supporting both Democratic Senator Kay Hagan and Republican challenger Thom Tillis spent more than $100 million to contest the seat (she lost).

 

And to whom should Americans give thanks for this steroid infusion of cash into political campaigns? The Supreme Court no less. The same Supreme Court that installed George Dubya Bush as president back in 2000.

 

In January 2010, the Supreme Court with its five conservative judges declared that the First Amendment of the US constitution prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by non profit organization and designating corporations as people, thereby providing the super wealthy the opportunity to control all aspects of political life in America.

 

Juiced up on fear-fuel; fear of IS terror; of immigrants; of EBOLA, of job losses, gun-control, and so on, these wealthy conservative warmongers managed to convince the average white voter that the black man in the White House was dragging the country to certain demise, and Democratic candidates were his zombie army lurking to do them harm.

 

Never mind that this Democratic president, who inherited a country on the verge of great economic depression, still managed during his tenure so far to halve the unemployment level (to 5.8 percent according to the jobs report on November 7, three days after the elections), oversee 63 months of uninterrupted economic growth, and finally provide millions of uninsured Americans access to affordable healthcare for first time in their lives.

 

Never mind all that. The Republican mantra throughout the elections to destroy their Democratic opposition? “They voted for Obama”. The great Democratic rejoinder? "Not us; we don't even know this guy." Democratic candidates did not so much try to put daylight between them and the “professorial, elitist” president; they ran as if on a different continent.

 

Most scandalous of all: just 35 percent of registered voters bothered to cast their vote, 75 percent of whom were middle-aged whites. No wonder that in my state of Maryland, a solid Democratic state on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, voters chose a conservative white Republican, Larry Hogan, supported crazily by the Koch brothers and other capitalist bandits instead of the heavily favoured Lieutenant Governor, Anthony Brown, a former soldier, Harvard lawyer and black American.

 

Is American democracy for sale? I don’t want to ruffle any feathers, but this is the new America where money goes a long, long way in deciding who gets to make laws and then enforce them.


Said Arikat is the Washington Bureau Chief for the Jerusalem-based Palestinian newspaper al-Quds. 

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

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