Every once in a while I read a post that is so, so, so completely right that I struggle not to quote the entire thing. This Glenn Greenwald post is one of them:
America’s election season degrades mainstream political discourse even beyond its usual lowly state. The worst attributes of our political culture — obsession with trivialities, the dominance of horserace “reporting,” and mindless partisan loyalties — become more pronounced than ever. Meanwhile, the actually consequential acts of the U.S. Government and the permanent power factions that control it — covert endless wars, consolidation of unchecked power, the rapid growth of the Surveillance State and the secrecy regime, massive inequalities in the legal system, continuous transfers of wealth from the disappearing middle class to large corporate conglomerates — drone on with even less attention paid than usual.
The despair sets in right away. Did he just say obsession with trivialities? Surely he’s attacking the Democrats. Advantage: Republicans. Endless covert wars? He’s attacking the Republicans, right? Advantage: Dems.
But of course I’m only saying that because deep down in my heart of hearts I really want [fill in the blank] to [win/lose] so that [counterpart] will [lose/win]. The horse race explains everything, a hypothesis that cannot be falsified. Even trying to falsify it is, itself, a strategy for the horse race.
But the horse race exists for a reason. It exists to entertain us while the machine grinds ever onward. Who wins in Washington? Power wins. Who loses? Liberty loses.
And you know what? Even speaking up for the cause of liberty — convinced, deeply and profoundly, that something has gone systematically wrong — even that is taken as nothing more than a strategy for the horse race. This is, in itself, probably a big reason why there aren’t more people speaking up for the cause, insofar as they are capable. The cause is tainted. Everything’s tainted.
The very same people who in 2004 wildly cheered John Kerry — husband of the billionaire heiress-widow Teresa Heinz Kerry — spent all of 2008 mocking John McCain’s wealthy life courtesy of his millionaire heiress wife and will spend 2012 depicting Mitt Romney’s wealth as proof of his insularity; conversely, the same people who relentlessly mocked Kerry in 2004 as a kept girly-man and gigolo for living off his wife’s wealth spent 2008 venerating McCain as the Paragon of Manly Honor…
[A]ny critique of the President’s exercise of vast power (an adversarial check on which our political system depends) immediately prompts bafflement (I don’t understand the point: would Rick Perry be any better?) or grievance (you’re helping Mitt Romney by talking about this!!). The premise takes hold for a full 18 months — increasing each day in intensity until Election Day — that every discussion of the President’s actions must be driven solely by one’s preference for election outcomes (if you support the President’s re-election, then why criticize him?).
Worse still is the embrace of George W. Bush’s with-us-or-against-us mentality as the prism through which all political discussions are filtered. It’s literally impossible to discuss any of the candidates’ positions without having the simple-minded — who see all political issues exclusively as a Manichean struggle between the Big Bad Democrats and Good Kind Republicans or vice-versa — misapprehend “I agree with Candidate X’s position on Y” as “I support Candidate X for President” or “I disagree with Candidate X’s position on Y” as “I oppose Candidate X for President.”
Meanwhile, discussion of the merits of various policies — independent of the candidates or their victory or defeat — disappears. As intended.