Paul Andersen: Fair Game

The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

On Tuesday, I’m voting for Barack Obama as the lesser of two evils. That’s a lousy reason, but the status quo is better than the unknown, and I see Mitt Romney as an ideological iceberg with way too much hidden below the waterline.

If that Republican iceberg hits the White House, it will be a titanic event that will surely put a chill on social welfare programs. Swapping safety nets for golden parachutes is not what I want to see, so I’m choosing Obama.

My vote will not be cast with the joyous grin of the purple-fingered electorate of certain Middle Eastern countries but rather with resignation that the two-party system has failed to provide real choice. While there were more than a dozen presidential candidates, only two appeared on televised debates and received millions from super PACs.

Regardless of who gets in, the reigning plutocracy – rule by the wealthy – will prevail and continue to shape our government and our lives. The Founding Fathers would climb out of their graves and stage another revolution if they knew that the division between church and state had been bridged by the gospel of business and finance.

Both major parties are beholden to big donors who assert that the economy is the ruling principle and “jobs-jobs-jobs” is the mantra. I’m not discounting economic health, but it ought to be achieved without deflating our national conscience and undermining our collective integrity.

Not only would a Romney administration further entrench the business culture, but his party appears eager to privatize the American Commons, our public lands. Obama’s no tree hugger, but if Romney gets into office, there will come a sagebrush rebellion spreading like wildfire over our legacy lands.

Big Business and Big Finance, despite lessons from the 2008 recession, are fully in charge. The American people are still the dupes of the big banks and Wall Street profiteers. Oligarchy or plutocracy? I’m not sure how to label the top tier of political leadership in this country, but I’d rather not have to use either.

Political philosopher Walter Lippmann warned fifty years ago that “deranged” democracies become oligarchies – rule by the few – when statesmen are replaced by politicians and governance is demeaned into a popularity contest measured by polls.

Lippmann cautioned that executive leadership should emanate from the high principles of the executive, not through the fluctuating barometers of public opinion. Powerful interests, he said, fill voids in executive leadership and seek whatever control they can of popular opinion.

Campaign finance reform is non-negotiable because it threatens that very control. So the choice is narrowed to the two guys in suits who spew facts and figures by rote and artfully dodge the substantive issues such as ethical boundaries in business, climate change, war, gun control, ecology and public health.

These guys are mum on those and other topics because they’re afraid to exhibit their own truths. Better to hedge one’s bets with generalities than to say what comes from the heart, what emanates from the soul.

Many of our national leaders are short-term pragmatists, utilitarian in their principles and compromised in their values. They readily accept campaign corruption, corporate hegemony, soulless education and a blind nationalism that undermines enlightened foreign policy. They are told that’s what the public wants.

As long as TV mainlines entertainment and commercials into American households, who has time to ponder these deep cultural quandaries? Who dares to question reckless consumerism and bland passivity? Who cares about the environment when nature is a mere backdrop to play and frivolity?

Obama stood for change, but I haven’t seen it. Still, I certainly don’t wish to see the kind of change lurking in Romney’s agenda. If the pendulum swings his way, I fear we’ll be heading toward a dystopian ideal of Ayn Rand radicalism or George W. Bush on steroids.

One day I hope for real change, a time when I can wave a purple finger of defiance against the two parties, the super PACs, the endless barrage of platitudes, all of which appeal to our lesser selves and guarantee our lesser stature as a nation. My purple finger may very well be the middle one.