MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The corporate media is pretty consistent in its formulaic coverage of presidential races. On July 6, I noted in a commentary how predictable it was that the established pundits were urging that Trump needed to get "on message" in order to be a viable candidate. I pointed out that Trump was already "on message" -- his message was that of a bigoted, sneering demagogue. The establishment political media, however, always covers presidential elections with a template that includes solemnly advice on how presidential candidates must "move to the center" and "stay on message." The idea is that they must give speeches filled with party-line pablum and platitudes in order to win over the much-touted but illusive "independent vote."
If a candidate continues to, in the view of pompous pundits, go "off message," the scribes move to claiming that a particular campaign needs a "reset." For example, on August 8, a Reuters article declared, "Trump seeks a campaign reset with Detroit economic speech." On August 9, a Washington Post article stated that the "next step in Donald Trump’s reset" would be "wooing evangelical pastors." A number of Trump "shock" statements in the past few days have resulted in some talking heads calling for a "reset" on Trump's "reset."
Yes, if a presidential candidate doesn't stay "on message" (which generally means "pivoting" to the mythical "center" as defined by the DC establishment press) then that campaign and candidate need a whole series of "resets."
To those disgruntled by this "lesser of two evils" election, however, the reset that is needed is quite different: What's necessary is to rewind the clock and start over with a new way to choose multiple presidential candidates. Right now, in our two-party system, the way presidential elections are legally structured and covered by the media make a third-party victory extraordinarily improbable. It shouldn't be that way, but it is. We, indeed, have what is often cited as a duopoly on the national level -- or a two-party presidential election franchise.
The two-party dominance of presidential elections has been a major contributor to the creation of a stultified democracy, one in which the institutional interests and the influence of the wealthy and corporations on each party has stifled robust debate and change. What we get are presidential campaigns that reflect the institutional interests of the two parties -- and don't for a moment think that billionaire Donald Trump does not embody both the pro-wealth and, in general, the social policies of the GOP. Every four years, the media treats candidates as if they can just change costumes ("move to the center," "reset," etc.) and become more electable. Of course, a tacit corporate media assessment of being "on message" involves candidates of either major party adopting economic positions that benefit corporations, since the mass media consists of large corporate ownership, in general.
This year's presidential election will again come down to one of two elite candidates. Both of them have high negative ratings. Both of them have scary foreign policy positions, though in different ways. Both of them believe in "American exceptionalism," with the Democrat wanting the jingoistic notion to be enhanced, and the Republican candidate wanting to use the concept to move us backwards -- toward a white nationalist government. Yes, the two candidates differ on social policies, but you can barely hear these differences register above the din of news coverage of polls, gaffes, shocking statements, alleged scandals and the personalities of the candidates.
Whatever the 2016 race is, it's as representative of democracy as Monsanto GMO seeds are of organic agriculture. It's a facade.
As mentioned above, beyond the influence of corporate and financial elites on both parties, there is the issue of effete self-interest in those who depend upon the institutional, structural and financial support that comes with party loyalty. To a great degree, being an elected Democratic or Republican official -- or being on their respective party staffs -- is like being a member of a corporation that has a specific interest in self-survival above all else. Certainly Donald Trump appears to have gone alarmingly "maverick" for the GOP establishment, but the congressional Republicans are likely to survive as a strong force. Hillary Clinton's Democratic platform incorporated a few of the progressive positions from the Sanders campaign, but she is being increasingly endorsed by representatives of the Republican national security elite. It can be argued that these are not two separate parties, but rather two wings of one consensus interest, with some significant differences on social policy -- but sometimes, even those difference come down to lip service.
The important public policy concerns that have arisen in the last few years have resulted from grassroots advocacy. These include the pro-union uprising in Wisconsin, the Black Lives Matter movement, the Occupy encampments and the Fight for $15 campaign. In short, a robust democracy is only guaranteed by not ceding public policy advancement to two candidates who are of the ruling elite. Progressive change comes from outside the narrow interests of and corporate influence over two institutions -- political parties -- who have a presumptive monopoly in presidential elections.
What we need is not a reset of the Republican and Democratic Party candidates. What we need is a reset of the two-party system into an active multi-party election that forces real issues to the forefront.
That would be a reset that just might foster an energized democracy.
Not to be reposted without the permission of Truthout.