Preface: SharQ has been quite reasonably /msg-ing me and responding on this node to my rant below. He, apparently, quite gets the smileys-and-sarcasm bit, and tries to force me back on an even keel in the argument with his replies above. I salute him for his position, his convictions and his arguing - and I hope more around here will be able to jump into this irresistable ring of contention that may, at times, resemble an academic WWF Cage Match. Cheers, SharQ!
Note that I still don't think he's right (grin).
Now, on to my original hotheaded sarcasm fest-
Okay, SharQ. You're new here, and thus get leeway, to the point where I won't just smack this writeup off the system. :-) But that doesn't mean it can slide.
So hold on, partners...it's time to play deconstructionist writeup rugby! Don't try this at home; this noder plays with sarcasm levels that could KILL YOU ALL!
As is my usual practice, all components of the original node quoted here are sic and in italics. My comments are in plaintext.
I'm going to just ignore the 'short lesson on Democracy' as it really isn't relevant. After deluging us with Norwegian election results, SharQ notes:
This list demonstrates two things: For one thing, it shows fairly well the diversity in current Norwegian politics. This diversity is not always a good thing, but at least it does introduce discussions from both sides, which is healthy for the democratic process.
Um, no, sorry. It does not illustrate the diversity in current Norwegian politics, just the relatively even distribution of Norwegian voting patterns. We have your word that the parties lie across the political gamut; however, we have no information on the width of the political spectrum in Norway. It may, for example, be much narrower than in other places; it may be much larger. Either way, these numbers don't say anything about the diversity of Norwegian politics.
Your notes on the 'left/right scale' are somewhat helpful, but don't address the point above. Countries have their own political spectra. If those votes had been for U.S. democrats vs. republicans, maybe they'd mean something.
Moving along: In America, there are two political parties worth mentioning - the democrats and the republicans. On the scale mentioned earlier, both these two parties end up on the right side of the scale - without being absolutely sure,they would probably end up each one one side of the "H" above.
Really? Nader's party, which in the minds of many gave the election to Bush and company, isn't worth mentioning? Hmm. Also, you appear to forget that local elections feature a plethora of parties, some of which even make it officially to Congress (my own state of Vermont had a Socialist in there, for one). Secondly, party identification in the U.S. is less a matter of positions than you seem to believe. More on this later.
This brings us to a few of the problems in the USA today. Most Europeans, even the ones inclined to vote right, would agree that the choice between "pretty far right" or "right" isn't really much of a democratic choice - because the more socialistic / neutral views are by and large ignored. This promotes a very polarized, rigid political system of black-and-white, without any gradations in between. In this case, the choice will always be Republican or Democrat - there is nothing
in between, and there seems to be nothing to the left or right of these parties. At least not worth mentioning.
Whoa. "Most Europeans"...sorry, but assertions of mass support doesn't cut it. I'm not saying you're wrong, but show me numbers. Also, the characterization of American political choice as "pretty far right" to "right" is yours, not ours. If a political process is designed to work for those who belong to it, I'm afraid to say your opinions don't really mean much.
In any case, how can you first argue that there's no real spread to the system and in the same sentence argue that the system is rigidly polarized black and white? Black and white imply contrast; contrast implies difference. And the choice is not always Republican or Democrat, sorry. There are a myriad of candidates in every election in the U.S. While it's true that at the national level very few other than those that proclaim themselves Dems/Reps get elected, that doesn't mean much. Try to look at values and viewpoints. There is a wide range of difference in the values and viewpoints within each party! Such spreads make your constant harping about binary choice incorrect and irrelevant.
"Nothing to the left or right of these parties" worth mentioning...um, again, Nader? Anderson? Perot? While never themselves holding office, you cannot claim that these parties did not influence their respective elections (in some cases decisively). That's how a parliament works, after all; it magnifies the leverage of individual members when there is a lack of unanimity, forcing the government or those trying to form one to pay an unbalanced amount of attention to those who are 'on the line', no matter what their opinions actually may be.
In America, elections look more like television entertainment than a choosing of how a country is to be
run the next years. Oh, boy. Here we go with knee-jerk European liberal condemnation of the American Media. Seriously, though, what's your point? The massive coverage of elections in America, while skewed in terms of emphasis, is all about who's going to lead the country. Tell any candidate who's had their past investigated within an inch of his/her life what you just said and listen to the laughter.
I know; you argue later that the media (and the people) focus on unimportant stuff. Well, BZZZT. Sure, they do. The problem is, however, you don't know what's important until you go look, and you don't get approval/budget/urge to go look unless there's the prospect of mass interest in the results. So, you have to hype that interest. Unfortunate, but not nearly as damaging as you seem to think. Some candidates' pasts don't get enough coverage, it seems to me.
I did a highly unofficial survey among approx. 50 American youth in high school (this was in 1998, and the people in question were about 16-17 years old), asking them what the difference between the republican party and the democratic party was. Only 10 or so were able to give an answer at all, and only 3 or 4 were able to give an answer that actually made any sense.
The other question I asked them, was what Communism and Socialism was, and if they could mention ONE single thing that was good about either of the two. The replies were nonexistent.
I fail to see how this is relevant. First of all, you admit that none of those you spoke with is of legal voting age. While it may be a tragedy that they aren't better informed about history, I somehow don't think that a lack of intimate knowledge about Socialism and Communism will affect the impact their future votes will have, especially if (as you yourself argue) there's nothing anywhere near as radical as that available to vote for. Did you try asking them what they thought about gun control? What they thought about abortion? What they thought about taxes? What they thought about Israel and the Palestinians? These are the things Americans typically think about when they choose their leaders. I remain much more concerned about people who can tell you exactly what a party stands for but have no clue as to the congruence between that party's espoused positions and those of their current candidate.
This also raises the question of where the Americans do get their information from, on which they base their choices. The answer to this, sadly, appears to be the television.
Heh. First, you'd have to work to convince me we make choices based on the information we gather...at least, more than maybe 1% of us. Facetious comments aside, again, you seem to have little point other than a knee-jerk and practiced condemnation of American media. While I will be first in line to agree with you that American television media has and is guilty of some of the worst excesses of recent years, I defy you to give me a good option. Newspapers are (with very few exceptions) very, very regionalist; information obtained from them (in the U.S.) is never balanced. Furthermore, it is much more difficult to distribute a newspaper on a national basis than on a regional basis, not only due to logistics but because 95% of the country doesn't care what happened in your county last week unless it involved anthrax. The national papers really only became so after having a distribution network that could support them; and the ROI on that these days is pretty piss-poor.
I would remind you of the size of the country you're talking about. Ever driven across the U.S.? It's frickin' huge, man. Ever talked to the people who inhabit it as you drive? There's a fairly dramatic difference not only in opinions but in lifestyle, language, and culture. Television, while flawed, remains (with radio) the only effective means of quickly propagating information across the country. Don't even mention the Internet; with over 35% of the web traffic in this country going through AOL, odds aren't very good that that will help.
This leads to a highly populist discussion. The characteristics of a populist discussion are partly that they are quite shallow, and don't touch the big issues in society. In addition to this, the populist topics often exclude more leftist parties from joining the discussion.
Wow, I don't know where to start, here. First of all, I'd say you were being an unabashed elitist; however, that flies in the face of both your 'history lesson' earlier and the later fact that you seem to take great pride in noting the higher voter turnout numbers for Norway. Okay, which is it? Populist, I would remind you, involves 'of the people.' Who the fuck is government for? "...don't touch the big issues in society..." well, maybe not yours. Gun control, abortion, and the like are the big issues over here, cowboy. Oh, sure, we don't talk about foreign policy and global economics much...because we don't have to. Some incredibly pathetic percentage of the U.S. economy is actually based on international trade; an even smaller percentage on trade with nations outside NAFTA (especially those that aren't Japan).I'm not saying that the trade itself isn't big; just that compared to our GDP it's kinda silly. When this is the case, I'm sorry, but international affairs and globalism aren't the big issues. As to the degree of discussion of socialist policy in the country, you're wrong; what do you think the whole brouhaha about health care was, after all? Remember, our system is much, much more privatised than yours; as a result, most of the debates about how it is run are done silently - with our wallets. Debate at the policy level is typically only done when deciding what the government should be meddling in, since until that's settled, there's no point debating its policy.
Besides, in USA campaigns tend to be heavily financed by lobby organizations and large corporations, like the NRA, Shell etc. This is a vicious circle indeed:
- a party needs some corporations to be able to get to power at all
- A large corporation is not going to fund a party that does not act in their own interest
- A non-right party is not likely to support large corporations, and will not receive any funds from these
Sadly, the conclusion of these three points is that only parties oriented to the political right will have any power in the USA. This means that the large corporations will get even better soil for growth, allowing them to pour even more money into the political system.
Yes, campaigns are heavily financed by large corporations, and yes, that can be/is a problem. However, don't get carried away. Corporations and their operations are much,much more central to public life here in the U.S. for one because of the laissez-faire philosophy of the U.S. Government; corporations fill many of the roles that government agencies fill in more socialist nations, and (oh, dear, here's the big secret) Americans like it that way. We have this whole issue of 'big government' versus 'small government-' remember? While the corporations should be better restricted and/or policed in terms of their abilities to set conditions on their contributions, and perhaps on their size, even then, you're going to have to cope with the fact that government action involving big corporations is, in fact, government action involving citizens in many cases.
Your list points, while not necessarily wrong, don't really follow nearly as tight a logic trail as you think. To wit:
- Parties need corporations to be able to get to power
Wrong. Parties need money to be able to get to power. This may or may not involve companies. Even if it does, there is an emerging trend among American corporations to increase their image as 'environmentally friendly' and 'humanist' - why? Because they lose money otherwise. This includes the pattern of their political giving. While the pendulum is nowhere near flipping, it's definitely wavering around; it's not all bad on this front.
- A large corporation is not going to fund a party that does not act in their own interest
Um, okay. Look, I'll say it again: this isn't about parties so much as it is about candidates. Companies give money at all levels, and are never above playing candidates off against each other even within a party. But in any case, it's sort of a rhetorical argument; you first need to convince me that what the corporations want is automatically bad. Some of it? Sure, no doubt. However, a lot of it can be traced directly back through to their primary task of making money - which employs Americans and pays their bills.
- em>A non-right party is not likely to support large corporations, and will not receive any funds from these
That's not as clear-cut. It's to the point now where companies are willing to pay political groups for their 'support' - and those that wield this sort of 'brand approval' aren't rightists or Republicans. Companies will pay whoever they think will get them a better environment, and that doesn't have to be politicians! Organizations like Unicef and Greenpeace are increasingly able to elicit large checks in return for declaring the sponsor's name. It's up to them to decide if they want to do that, but the fact that companies want this sort of recognition is, itself, an indication of some power moving to the left.
All these mentioned points are arguments for USA not being a democracy, i.e a country ran by the people. USA is run by a small elitist group of multi-billion corporations, and democracy has been made impossible by the system. When the planes crashed into the WTC on sept 11th, it wasn't democracy that was attacked, because USA doesn't have such a thing. Capitalism might have been attacked - but I suppose we just don't know the difference anymore.
Oh, for the love of...look, I got news for you. What did our last election come down to? Despite the huge number of problems in how it came out, it came down to vicious fights NOT OVER THE POLICIES OF A CABAL but over the choices of a small number of Americans. The very depth of the bullshit maneuvering that went on is in fact strong evidence that the People run this place. If that weren't true, there would have been no need to try so desperately to influence the count; more attention would have been paid to simply ignoring the result!
I know, I can hear you say it, the result *was* ignored. First of all, no matter whose side you are on, the difference either way was so far down into the 'noise' layer for an election involving many dozens of millions of people that in reality those fights were IRRELEVANT. The real battle came beforehand and on other fronts; in advertising, and (more perniciously) in the Supreme Court. The shape of the battle, however, was determined by the need to have the people of the U.S. accept the result. While I think the wrong guy won, I would point out that the power shift in Congress more than makes up for it. Congress, really, is the issue here, not the President; while he's important, Congress has the legislative power, and they are elected from a much wider spectrum of people (see those fun stats on how many of them have outstanding warrants) and in a much more direct process.
Don't even bring up the September 11th incident. Frankly, it has dick to do with what you're saying, and dragging it in just to emphasize a point is not only cowardly, stupid and annoying, but would probably get you smacked if you'd brought it up in this argument to my face. The people that died in that incident have NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with this discussion.
As for your last paragraph - big whoop, Norway has a bigger eligible voter turnout. Ooh. I'm jealous. While it is sad that more Americans don't vote, the fact remains that it is their right not to vote. If, in fact, you argue so strongly that they are never offered a real choice, and that the media and discussion in the country is too populist, then where do you get off with this one?